Va. fire chief says reports about first responders being attacked at crash scene were 'inaccurate'
Virginia Beach Fire Chief David Hutcheson said one firefighter was kicked and one was shoved, but bystanders didn't interfere with care to the crash victim
VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. — On Wednesday, Virginia Beach Fire Chief David Hutcheson stood in the same location at Atlantis Apartments where paramedics tried to save the life of a Virginia Beach man who lost control of his motorcycle on June 28.
A memorial with candles, flowers and a photo of 28-year-old Carl Lee Walton Jr. remains near the sidewalk.
His death had been foreshadowed by reports about what took place between a crowd and first responders.
Hutcheson held a news conference to address “misperceptions and inaccurate reports” concerning what happened during firefighters’ response to the fatal accident. An internal Fire Department memo reported an unruly crowd gathering at the scene and firefighters being pushed and kicked.
Hutcheson said while one firefighter was kicked and another shoved, those actions were out of emotion and did not prevent the firefighters from caring for the victim. No firefighters were injured. Over his 33-year career with the Fire Department, Hutcheson said he could recall about five similar incidents during emotional situations.
“This is a very distraught scene, a very traumatic scene,” Hutcheson said. “When you have something happen that is this traumatic, people’s actions are sometimes not what you want them to be around you.”
The victim’s mother and sister said they are sad the Fire Department is standing by the report that people kicked and pushed firefighters. They said the allegation is not true.
“We didn’t do anything wrong to stop the paramedics … from working on my son,” said Denise Walton, 49.
Carmen Walton said she was hysterical and asked EMS and firefighters if her brother was OK. She said people comforted her and tried to calm her as it was difficult to see her brother lying unresponsive in the street.
“Who in their right mind would interfere with their only sibling getting their life saved?” Carmen said.
Denise Walton said her son, who went by CJ, bought the motorcycle that day and was showing it off to people he knew. He had plans to meet family members at the apartment complex before going to the Oceanfront to eat, she said. He was a father of of two and has one child on the way.
DeSean Merton said he witnessed Walton’s bike go in the air. He called 911 at 8:52 p.m. and helped render aid until first responders arrived. He said his call with 911 lasted 7 minutes and 31 seconds, according to his phone records. He said everyone on scene was emotional because they witnessed a person dying in a traumatic way.
Officials said Walton died on the way to the hospital, but Denise Walton said she waited for about three hours before a police officer informed her.
The hospital was on lock down that evening, but Julie Hill, a city spokesperson, said it was connected to a series of traumatic cases the hospital was dealing with, not this one particular event.
That same night, a person was observed pounding their fists on an EMS Supervisor SUV in the parking lot of the hospital, EMS Chief Edward Brazle said. The city has been unable to confirm who damaged the vehicle, but there’s no evidence to confirm this individual was associated with the Atlantis Apartment incident, Brazle said. An internal Fire Department briefing previously reported by The Pilot said some of the crowd followed the ambulance to the hospital, where they attacked the EMS vehicles.
Kris Worrell, the editor-in-chief of The Virginian-Pilot, said the newspaper wrote what information was known at the time, including information directly from the Fire Department as well as the details about the hospital lock down.
“We are not perfect, but Virginian-Pilot reporters are professionals who take seriously their mission of providing accurate news to our readers,” she said.
Over the past month, Hutcheson said his department has met with the Walton family and members of the community to discuss the incident. Before the press conference, firefighters and the family spent 45 minutes together at a fire station.
Jasmine Merton, 31, said news reports about the incident surprised her because the official reports do not line up with what she witnessed. She said a life was lost and the reports were about firefighters being attacked, which she didn’t see happen.
“The next day, all I could see was them judging us off of color and what neighborhood we are in,” Merton said.
Hutcheson said it doesn’t matter what area of the city someone in need lives in, or the color of their skin, firefighters and EMS will always respond to people in need.
“We value Seatack and Atlantis Apartments — they are part of the fabric of Virginia Beach,” he said. “That is what we want to get across.”
©2020 The Virginian-Pilot (Norfolk, Va.)
VB Atlantis Drive briefing
LIVE: Virginia Beach first responders are holding a briefing to "address misperceptions and inaccurate reports" involving emergency crews' response to a fatal motorcycle crash last month on Atlantis Drive. https://bit.ly/33ahsdlPosted by WAVY TV 10 on Wednesday, July 29, 2020