Police in Georgia are to review why a man who was fatally shot by an officer at his home was handcuffed to his hospital bed for the last two days of his life and barred from visits by his family, who allege that he was isolated to stop him disclosing full details of the shooting.
Kevin Davis was detained at Grady hospital in Atlanta after being shot three times by a DeKalb County police officer, who was responding to a 911 call made by Davis and his girlfriend when she was stabbed by another man at their apartment in the suburb of Decatur.
His sister, Delisa, spent his final hours begging police to allow her to see him, but they refused until he died. “They denied us access to him because they didn’t want him telling us what really happened that night,” she told the Guardian. In his last known remarks, Davis told a medic that an officer simply arrived at his home “and began shooting”.
Davis had been arrested and charged with aggravated assault against the police officer, Joseph Pitts, because he allegedly ignored an order to drop a revolver he was holding. Davis’s girlfriend, April Edwards, said he grabbed the unloaded gun and approached their front door after their dog was shot and they feared that her attacker may have returned with a gun.
Pitts shot Davis in disputed circumstances. Police have said that Davis approached Pitts, who was in the corridor outside the apartment, shouting: “You shot my dog.” Pitts had shot the three-legged pitbull dead, later alleging it “charged” at him after he opened the door to Davis’s apartment. Police also said Pitts ordered Davis twice to “put down the gun”.
But according to hospital files obtained by the Guardian, after arriving by ambulance Davis told an emergency room medic in his last known remarks “that police came to his house after there was an altercation with his girlfriend and began shooting”.
His family’s attorneys said witnesses did not hear Davis say anything to the officer, and that the 44-year-old did not even make it past the threshold to his apartment. They said neighbours recalled hearing shots fired almost instantly after an order to drop the revolver.
Hospital officials confirmed that relatives were able to visit patients in custody if the law enforcement agency involved granted permission. The DeKalb County sheriff’s office, which was responsible for Davis during his stay in hospital, said it granted permission “in the most grave situations”, yet Davis’s family was refused access even as he deteriorated fatally.
Despite being instantly paralysed by one of Pitt’s bullets, Davis was handcuffed to his bed to prevent a possible escape. “From the time I found out he had been shot, I was calling Grady, I was calling De Kalb County, and I couldn’t get anybody to give me a straight answer or let me see him,” said his sister. “They just gave me the runaround.”
Police have not said how many times he was shot. His sister said she was told by doctors that they had found three bullets in his body – one lodged in his spine, one in his stomach and another in an arm. Medical reports from the hospital detail five separate wounds.
Delisa Davis said that when she was told that her brother had “expired” on 31 December, a detective told her: “I guess you can go to Grady now”. She said: “It was just so callous, like they weren’t dealing with humans.” Davis’s case has only come to light in recent days after his family belatedly recruited attorneys.
The DeKalb County sheriff, Jeffrey Mann, said in a statement that his department “routinely restrain arrestees, generally with handcuffs” in the interests of “the safety of the public and inmates” in their custody.
“It is also our practice not to allow inmate visitation except in the most grave situations, and then with the confirmation of that condition by the medical professionals at the facility,” said Mann. “Tragically, Mr Davis succumbed to his wounds while being treated at Grady Hospital. In the interest of transparency, however, we will review the circumstances regarding his condition and any visitation requests.”
Denise Simpson, a spokeswoman for Grady hospital, said she could not discuss specific detention methods used on patients in custody “as procedures may vary based on patient conditions, medical treatments required, etc”.
“Grady policy requires that anyone wishing to visit a custody patient contact the appropriate law enforcement agency and obtain approval from that agency,” said Simpson. “That agency then notifies our staff if visitation is approved.”
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