Welch Police Chief under fire in death of gay man

By John O'Brien | Mar 9, 2006

CHARLESTON - The mother of a gay McDowell County man who died in June is suing the City of Welch and the Welch Police Chief for allegedly refusing her son CPR while he was suffering from a heart attack.

Helen Green says in a lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union on behalf of her on March 2 in U.S. District Court in Bluefield that Police Chief Robert Bowman ordered a friend of Claude Green's to stop administering CPR because he assumed he was HIV positive.

"Instead of providing emergency medical care himself, or even allowing others to continue to do so, Defendant Bowman physically pulled the passenger away from Claude, stood in the doorway of the car and then directed traffic while Claude waited approximately eight minutes for the ambulance to arrive," the complaint says. "Despite efforts to revive Claude at the hospital, he died."

It adds that Bowman wrongly believed Claude Green, who died at 43, was HIV positive because he was known to be gay.

"Plaintiff Helen Green, as the appointed administratrix of the estate of her son Claude Green Jr. and as personal representative of his surviving family members… bring this claim pursuant to Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990... To remedy discrimination based on perceived disability in the provision of public services by Defendant Bowman and the City of Welch," the complaint says.

At approximately 2 p.m. on June 21, the complaint says, Claude Green, who is survived by his son C. Christopher Green, his mother Helen and his four siblings Madge Kiser, Mary Mullins, Anita Tickle and Richard Green, was driving his truck on Virginia Ave. in Welch when he complained of indigestion or gas to passenger Billy Snead, his neighbor.

The complaint continues to say Green suddenly stiffened and his foot pressed down on the accelerator, and the truck veered off the road. Snead quickly brought the truck to a stop before either were injured.

Snead was unable to get Green out of the truck on his own but had training in CPR and began administering it, the complaint says.

After a few minutes, Bowman arrived, stated Green was HIV positive and told Snead to get back, the complaint says. It adds that Snead did not stop until Bowman grabbed him by the shoulders, and another observer claimed Green was HIV positive, to which Bowman responded, "Yes, he is."

Bowman then allegedly ordered Snead to sit on the curb of the street, began directing traffic while waiting for an ambulance and stood in front of the door of the truck to prevent anyone else from assisting Green.

When taken to the hospital, the complaint says Bowman still insisted to the medical staff that he was HIV positive, which an autopsy proved was untrue.

"Bowman's actions were a frightening abuse of power," said Rose Saxe, a staff attorney with the ACLU's AIDS Project, in a press release. "It's hard to say what was more shameful: that Chief Bowman assumed Claude Green was HIV positive solely because he was gay, or that Bowman was so ignorant about HIV that he felt you couldn't safely perform CPR on an HIV positive person."

"I'm heartbroken that I have lost my son over such ignorance and bigotry," Helen Green said. "I can't understand how someone who is supposed to protect the people of Welch could physically block another human from saving my son's life. It's always difficult for a mother to lose a child, but to have lost my son so needlessly will be with me for the rest of my life."

The lawsuit charges the defendants with five counts, including violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act and wrongful death.

The plaintiff is seeking declaratory relief as a judgment on the defendants' actions being a violation of certain rights, compensatory and consequential damages and punitive damages.

Helen Green is represented by Marshall Campbell of The Law Office of Marshall S. Campbell in Athens.

U.S. District Court case number 1:06-0159

More News

The Record Network