COLUMBIA, S.C. – A South Carolina man who died in August from injuries suffered in a car crash four days earlier was delayed in getting medical treatment because an officer signed a form for him saying he refused help, the family's attorney said.
In the past three days, the State Law Enforcement Division started an investigation into the actions of Charleston Police and Charleston County authorities have begun investigating paramedics who dealt with Nathaniel Rhodes after the crash.
Attorneys for Rhodes' family showed a Charleston County jail video Monday of paramedics joking as Rhodes moaned, sounded like he was struggling to breathe and slipped in and out of consciousness. Doctors would later find a severe cut to his liver that was causing internal bleeding and eight broken ribs, lawyer Justin Bamberg said, citing an autopsy report.
Rhodes, 58, was charged with driving under the influence after running a red light and crashing into another car in Charleston on Aug. 12, according to an incident report. The officer who responded to the wreck found Rhodes in an ambulance and after finding an opened bottle of wine between the front seats asked him to get off the stretcher, Bamberg said.
The officer started doing sobriety tests that Rhodes failed, the report said.
The form refusing treatment from paramedics at the scene was signed by an officer who appears to include a badge number and "CPD" beside the signature.
The jailhouse video shows Rhodes sitting slumped in a chair. After he briefly loses consciousness, paramedics are called. As they ask Rhodes to stand and take a few steps to the stretcher, an officer comes up and asks him to sign a form agreeing to either a breath or blood test for his alcohol level. Rhodes seems out of it and struggles to even follow the paramedics' commands, but the incident report said he refused to sign.
"A man is slowly dying. And they're more worried about trumping up a case," Bamberg said.
Rhodes' wife and daughter cried as clips of the video were shown.
"We know there is nothing we can do to get our father back — nothing we can do to fill that void. But we just want there to be a change," his daughter Megan Johnson said.
Rhodes died Aug. 16 at the hospital, and an autopsy report listed the cause of death as injuries from the wreck.
Charleston Police released a statement Friday after NBC News , which was the first outlet to report on the case, asked them questions. The department said it asked state agents to investigate and all other comments would come from them.
Charleston County officials asked deputies to investigate the paramedics Monday, also referring any questions to law enforcement.
Bamberg also showed a letter he wrote less than two weeks after the crash asking for all body and dashboard camera footage of Rhodes. No footage has been given but an email from the police to coroner's office investigators said body camera footage was either lost in a glitch or routinely erased out of the system.
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