Boston Police Officers Wrongly Assumed A Black Man Was Drunk While He Was Actually Having A Stroke, Now He Will Get $1.3 Million from the City

The city of Boston has agreed to pay Al Copeland $1.3 million and offered the man an apology after police falsely accused him of being drunk and subsequently arrested him. However, unknown to officers the 62-year-old man was actually suffering from a stroke. Copeland was feeling sick and nauseous while driving and pulled over his car.  “I was afraid,” the now-64-year-old man told WBUR. “I say, well, at least if anything happens to me, somebody will find me.”

The incident took place two years in April 2019 when officers found Copeland laid over in his car barely conscious outside of the Berklee College of Music, the news outlet reported. According to records  obtained by the station, law enforcement alleged they smelled alcohol on Copeland, although the man said he hadn’t had a drink in over two decades. A number of errors were made in the events that followed, including the fact officers arrested Copeland instead of calling for medical help.

Once at the police station, Copeland struggled to keep his balance — ultimately falling and injuring his head on a cell wall before throwing up. Documents say officers allegedly left him in the cell for five hours to “sleep it off” before calling an ambulance for him when he vomited.

Copeland was later transferred to Tufts Medical Center. Medical staff accepted the cops’ assumption that Copeland was drunk and left him in the emergency room for seven hours until his wife, Valerie, tracked him down, whereupon doctors finally determined that Copeland actually had suffered a stroke. The delay between the onset of Copeland’s symptoms and when he got medical treatment for his stroke might have made the difference between permanent disability and a full recovery.

For ischemic strokes, the most common kind of stroke, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention describes the narrow window of time patients have to break up the blockage. “If you get to the hospital within 3 hours of the first symptoms of an ischemic stroke, you may get a type of medicine called a thrombolytic (a “clot-busting” drug) to break up blood clots,” the agency’s website says.

Copeland went on to spend weeks in the hospital. He could no longer could do certain routine tasks and ultimately had to quit his job with the Massachusetts Bay Transit Authority. Copeland wife told reporters she believes the arrest was racially motivated.

“Why they didn’t assume he was sick?” Valerie told WBUR. “I can only and strongly believe it’s because he’s a Black male. To see how uncaring they were. It is unfortunately ⁠— it should be shocking, but it’s not.”

Copleland says two years later and he’s still experiencing  issues. “My balance, my attitude, my appetite,” he told the station.

“Tasting food, and some cognitive things that are still happening, and some physical things as well.” He doesn’t remember much from that night and was made aware of the incident after waking up at the Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital two months later.

The officers involved were disciplined not for how they handled Copeland, but for not promptly responding after he hit his head. The department nor the city of Boston have talked to the Copelands about the incident.

Meanwhile, they received an apology from Tufts, which also hired social workers to assist patients. “We are certainly very sorry that these events occurred,” they said in a statement to Newsweek. “Due to patient privacy laws, we are not permitted to comment on any individual patient’s clinical care.”

Read more:

Black Woman Found Dead Inside a Police Van in Alabama, Family Still Has Questions Refuses to Accept Autopsy Results

Elderly Black Man Released from Hospital Found on Sidewalk After Medicare Stopped Paying for Care

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