Widow sues South Carolina county over ketamine injection given to husband during arrest

State - Regional

MOUNT PLEASANT, S.C. (AP) — A widow is suing a South Carolina county two years after her husband died following a ketamine injection he received during an arrest.

The complaint filed by Tabitha Eileen Britt in October says the two Charleston County paramedics who injected her husband, James Britt, with the sedative drug after he was handcuffed by Mount Pleasant police in 2019 weren’t authorized to do so under state law.

The Post and Courier reports that Tabitha Britt wants a judge to stop county paramedics from using ketamine to aid law enforcement without a medical reason.

A police report stated that Mount Pleasant officers were dispatched on Sept. 30, 2019, for a man urinating on the roadway. According to the lawsuit, one officer initially stopped to help James Britt change a car tire before she said she would arrest him for public intoxication.

According to the complaint, police forced James Britt to the ground in a prone position, where he repeatedly said he couldn’t breathe.

One paramedic who arrived at the scene then injected James Britt with 500 mg of ketamine, the maximum dose under county guidelines. The suit says James Britt stopped breathing minutes later; although he was resuscitated in the ambulance, he never regained consciousness and died less than three weeks later in the hospital.

“At the end of the day, we don’t think ketamine should be used for a law enforcement purpose, end of story,” said Michael Thomas Cooper, an attorney representing Tabitha Britt.

Charleston County spokeswoman Kelsey Barlow declined to comment to the newspaper, citing pending litigation.

In September 2020, the town of Mount Pleasant settled with Tabitha Britt for $3 million over a wrongful death claim. Earlier this year, state prosecutors cleared both the police and paramedics of criminal wrongdoing in the death of James Britt.

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