Man's death during hospital struggle probed

Share with others:


Print Email Read Later

A Wilkinsburg man went to UPMC Shadyside for treatment Monday night and died after he had an altercation with a University of Pittsburgh police officer and hospital staff.

Ricardo Martinez, 39, died at the hospital at 10:35 p.m., about five hours after he first arrived. The Allegheny County medical examiner's office expected to conduct an autopsy Tuesday, but the results were not available.

Pittsburgh police, who are leading the investigation into Mr. Martinez's death, said he went to the hospital between 5 and 6 p.m. seeking treatment for mental health issues.

His family said he went there at a doctor's suggestion after he reported that he was experiencing shortness of breath.

Exactly how events unfolded differs depending upon the source.

Diane Richard, spokeswoman for the Pittsburgh police bureau, wrote in an email that Mr. Martinez suddenly attempted to leave about 10 p.m. Ms. Richard said that when a doctor told him to stay, Mr. Martinez attacked the doctor and "started to strangle" him, and someone called security.

A University of Pittsburgh police officer, who has not been identified, was working with hospital security Tuesday night and went to help.

When he arrived, "the patient was on the floor face down fighting with hospital staff," Ms. Richard said. "The officer assisted and was able to place handcuffs on the patient, who was resisting being cuffed. It is reported that at one point the patient became unconscious and was placed on his back on the floor, (still handcuffed behind his back), while the doctor and staff medically assisted him."

Mr. Martinez's mother and brother said they were not at the hospital at the time but a hospital staff member gave them conflicting information about how things unfolded.

"First they told us that he was collapsing and he reached out to grab a staff member," said Mr. Martinez's brother, Gwetto Martinez. "Then they said, 'Oh no, they had to restrain him.'

"Something's just not adding up, and the moment that we started asking some hard questions to them they decided that we can't answer none of your questions," Gwetto Martinez said.

A spokeswoman for UPMC declined to comment before the autopsy was completed, as did a spokesman for Pitt.

Ms. Richard said preliminary evidence suggested Ricardo Martinez, who was about 6 feet 2 inches tall and weighed some 350 pounds or more, might have died of a heart attack.

She said he had a history of both mental illness and drug use.

Mr. Martinez's family, without going into detail, acknowledged that he had a history of mental illness but said he was not taken to the hospital for those issues. They said they did not know him to use drugs.

"He was not down there for mental issues at all. He was not 302'd and he does not use drugs," Gwetto Martinez said. "The only thing that he uses is his medication, which is prescribed by his doctor."


Liz Navratil: lnavratil@post-gazette.com, 412-263-1438 or on Twitter @LizNavratil. First Published December 10, 2013 12:32 PM


Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement

You have 2 remaining free articles this month

Try unlimited digital access

If you are an existing subscriber,
link your account for free access. Start here

You’ve reached the limit of free articles this month.

To continue unlimited reading

If you are an existing subscriber,
link your account for free access. Start here