On June 29, a seventeen-year-old just four days shy of his eighteenth birthday named Eric Perez was riding his bike on a balmy Florida night. His bike did not have a light, so police stopped him and found him holding a small amount of marijuana. He was on probation for robbery from years earlier, so he was immediately taken to juvenile detention.
Two weeks later, he was dead, following hours of screaming, writhing in pain, and wretching that was ignored by jail staff.
(Miami Herald) By the time paramedics arrived at the West Palm Beach lockup to treat Eric Perez, the 18-year-old — jailed on a marijuana possession charge — showed only a “flat line” on a heart monitor.
Though Eric had been screaming and retching all night long, lockup administrators failed to call 911 until well after dawn. A detention center healthcare log provided Wednesday to The Miami Herald shows the youth was not examined by a medical professional until 7:51 a.m. Four minutes later, the log shows, lockup staff called a “code white,” indicating the youth’s condition had become critical.
According to the medical log, four guards and a nurse, none of whom are named, were in the room with Eric in his final moments, with two other guards outside. “One officer doing rescue breathing and me doing chest compressions,” the nurse wrote. At 8 a.m., paramedics arrived, connected the youth to their own defibrillator and began doing chest compressions themselves, the log says.
On Sunday, July 10, beginning around 1:30 a.m., Eric complained he had a severe headache, and began hallucinating that an imaginary person was on top of him. He had been throwing up for hours as guards sought “guidance” from a different nurse who did not answer her phone. Records say lockup supervisors and the facility’s superintendent instructed staff not to call 911.
If Eric had no pot on him the missing bike light wouldn’t have been any kind of probation violation. In order to save Eric from a weed that could never have killed him, police placed him in custody and ignored him while he died. Marijuana doesn’t kill, but prohibition sure does.
From NORML'S Radical Russ Belville:
I am the host of the NORML SHOW LIVE and The NORML Stash Blog. I'm married, live in Portland, Oregon, and I am a registered medical marijuana caregiver in this state. I've worked days as an IT geek and nights as a professional musician. Previously, I have been the host of my own political talk radio show on satellite radio. I've been the High Times "Freedom Fighter of the Month" for my work producing Oregon NORML's TV show, "A Cannabis Community Forum", and for helping to institute Portland's wildly successful medical marijuana cardholders meetings, where we help sick and disabled Oregonians acquire cannabis plant starts, learn gardening, and understand the medical marijuana law. I've dedicated my life to bringing an end to adult marijuana prohibition and re-legalizing cannabis hemp, and I'm honored to be chosen by NORML to be our daily voice.