December 22, 2014

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LifeCare crew took 15 minutes to respond to call

Jerome Phillips Jr.

Jerome Phillips Jr.

LORAIN — Homicide victim Jerome Phillips Jr., lived behind Mercy Regional Medical Center, just minutes from the hospital’s emergency room.

However, the two LifeCare Ambulance paramedics who transported him to Mercy — which doesn’t have its own ambulances — took nearly 15 minutes to respond to Phillips’ apartment at 5520 Beavercrest Drive.

The response early Sunday was more than double the 6½ minute average response time in Lorain. Herb de la Porte, LifeCare vice president, said it should’ve been faster.

“We’re definitely dealing with that,” he said. “It’s not supposed to happen.”

De la Porte blamed the delay on a combination of factors. Authorities said Phillips was fatally stabbed, but Phillips’ girlfriend and homicide suspect Anna Carter told a 911 dispatcher a different story. Carter said Phillips had come home drunk and fallen down and vomited as he was about to take a shower. She said he was bleeding below his armpit.

The paramedics, who were called at 1:43 a.m., were told that they were responding to a man with stomach pain, not a stabbing victim. De la Porte said that shouldn’t have made a difference in the pace of the paramedics’ response, but it did.

Like firefighters, paramedics work 24-hour shifts and were asleep when they received the call. De la Porte said they took about five minutes to depart but should’ve taken three minutes.

“They took a little longer than they should have,” he said.

The station, at 109 W. 23rd St. and Broadway, is about 5 miles from the apartment. There were three ambulances at the station in Lorain and one returning from Cleveland at the time of the call. Construction on West 21st Street slowed the response.

At 1:50 a.m., the paramedics were told Phillips was unconscious and at nearly 1:56 a.m. were told he stopped breathing as they were pulling into the unlit complex. The paramedics had trouble finding Phillips’ apartment, delaying their arrival by a minute or two. They located it after seeing a hysterical Carter outside.

De la Porte, who wouldn’t name the paramedics, said both men have clean job records. He said one of the paramedics was hired in 2008 or 2009 and the other was hired about a year ago.

De la Porte said a panel of supervisors will decide on disciplinary action next Wednesday. He said the paramedics may be retrained and suspensions are possible. Terminations are unlikely because neither man has prior infractions.

According to Lorain County Coroner Dr. Stephen Evans, Jerome Phillips was stabbed in the “tip of his heart.” The single stab wound caused hemopericardium, which is when blood fills a sac in the heart.

“That was not something he could survive,” Evans said.

Justin Phillips, Jerome Phillips’ brother, said the response was too long, and it might have cost his brother his life. Phillips said he isn’t considering suing LifeCare, but couldn’t speak for his relatives.

Phillips said he hopes the paramedics aren’t suspended, but retraining would be a good idea.

“They’ve got to be faster. Period,” he said.

Contact Evan Goodenow at 329-7129 or egoodenow@chroniclet.com.