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‘I Can’t Breathe’ Protesters Obstruct Paramedics from Dying Man Struggling to Breathe

Early in December, paramedics rushing to save a collapsed man who later died in the hospital were delayed in their response by protesters. The additional time it took to reach the victim may have contributed to his death.

Berkeley Fire Chief Gil Dong said, “Anytime there is a delay it causes us concern… Our objective is to get there rapidly so we can start treating the patient.”

Protesters have been demonstrating in Berkeley and across the nation over the last three weeks in response to the death of Michael Brown and Eric Garner, both who died in struggles with police officers. Many of those protesters have been wearing “I Can’t Breathe T-shirts” in remembrance of  Garner, who cried, “I can’t breathe, I can’t breathe,” while being subdued by NYC police after committing a minor crime.

Ironically, some of those protesters were likely chanting, “I can’t breathe,” when they interfered with paramedics trying to get through traffic to save a man struggling for his last breath.

According to Berkeleyside,  around 6:45 p.m. on Sunday, Dec. 7, a fire dispatcher received a call that a 62-year-old man had collapsed on the fifth floor of 2175 Kittredge St. and was having  “difficulty breathing, and sweating.” People familiar with the case told Berkeleyside that the demonstration posed a definite obstruction during the call.

“Nobody could get to him,” a Berkeley staffer said of the man who is believed to have had a heart attack. “Fire [Department] couldn’t get in without protection, and everyone was tied up. [Paramedics] were able to revive him to get him to the hospital, but it took 35 minutes to get [to Kittredge] because protesters were in the area and no one could go in safely.”

At that point according to a police radio the crowd had reached 800-strong. The protesters were said to be moving westbound on University Avenue from Shattuck close to the Kittredge St. address.

Though Dong would not comment on whether the delay contributed to the death of the collapsed man, he told Berkeleyside that his department fielded 16 calls in and around “hot zone” areas overwhelmed by  demonstrations in Berkeley from Dec. 6 through Dec. 8.

The Fire Chief said that those calls experienced “extended delayed response times” of 5-25 minutes due to the protests, either because they had too few officers or they had difficulty negotiating the ambulances through the crowd. The average response time for the firefighters is five-and-a-half minutes.

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