Saturday, June 2, 2007

Redwood City District Attorney Dismisses Assault and Resisting Arrest Charges Against Mr. Natural Universe

SAN FRANCISCO, June 1 /PRNewswire/ -- Jacobs & Ferraro, LLP today announced that the Redwood City, Calif. District Attorney's office has dropped all charges against Doug Burns, a Type 1 diabetic, stemming from an April encounter with police in which officers subdued, maced and injured him while he was in the midst of a potentially life-threatening episode of diabetic shock.

Mr. Burns, the reigning winner of the Natural Universe Bodybuilding Championships, a steroid-free bodybuilding competition, serves on the board of the Silicon Valley branch of the American Diabetes Association and devotes his time to helping children suffering from diabetes.

"I am relieved that this unfortunate episode is finally over. I only hope that it will serve as an important milestone for diabetes awareness in the Bay Area and beyond," said Mr. Burns. "With diabetes in America growing at such an alarming pace, it is important that our communities, including law enforcement, are educated and trained about how to identify life-threatening insulin shock and provide the right kind of assistance."

On April 1, 2007, Mr. Burns was at the New Century Movie Theater in Redwood City when he began to experience low sugar levels. To stabilize his blood sugar and prevent insulin shock Mr. Burns walked towards the theater snack bar to purchase a candy bar. However, a theater security guard mistakenly thought Mr. Burns was intoxicated and escorted him out of the theater and away from the snack bar. Outside, Mr. Burns quickly descended into severe insulin shock, at which point his physical faculties deteriorated and he became increasingly non-responsive and dazed.

Redwood City Police were summoned to the scene after witnesses reported a man "acting strangely." According to police at the scene, Mr. Burns was not responsive to their questions and would not leave. Mr. Burns reportedly struggled to regain entrance to the theater, at which point the police forcibly subdued, maced and handcuffed him. Police then summoned the Fire Department to flush the pepper spray from Mr. Burns' eyes.

Paramedics convinced the police to remove the handcuffs and performed a simple blood test that revealed that Mr. Burns' blood sugar level was just 26. According to a paramedic who treated Mr. Burns at the scene, Mr. Burns' glucose level was extremely low and constituted a medical emergency. The paramedic immediately treated Mr. Burns with a glucose infusion.

Later, despite the weight of the medical evidence regarding the impact of such a low blood sugar level and Mr. Burns' insulin shock, the District Attorney's office filed charges for resisting arrest and assaulting police officers.

According to medical experts in diabetes and endocrinology, a blood sugar level under 40 is considered a serious health threat and could lead to permanent brain damage, coma or even death if untreated. Medical experts consulted by both the prosecution and defense attorneys after the incident agreed that Mr. Burns lacked any awareness of his conduct during the alleged incident.

Mr. Burns was represented by the San Francisco firm Jacobs & Ferraro. After weeks of negotiation with the Police Department and District Attorney's office, prosecutors agreed to dismiss all criminal charges against Mr. Burns for "insufficient evidence." Additionally, Mr. Burns' attorneys report that Redwood City Chief of Police Louis A. Cobarruviaz, Mr. Burns and the American Diabetes Association will work together to help improve the training provided to the Department's officers so that they can better identify and help citizens who might be suffering from insulin shock. Chief Cobarruviaz reports that the department has begun showing officers a training video supplied by the American Diabetes Association.

"Like a lot of people, we were stunned that the District Attorney actually filed these charges," said Burns' attorney Micah Jacobs. "Even after we provided the District Attorney's office with all the evidence indicating that Mr. Burns was experiencing a medial emergency, they needed time to educate themselves about diabetes and insulin shock. This case shows that the diabetic community still has a long way to go in educating law enforcement but it also shows how effective community support can be," Jacobs added.

Recognizing the need to help raise public and police awareness about the signs of diabetic shock, Mr. Jacobs and the firm's managing partner Eric Ferraro agreed to donate their services to Mr. Burns on a pro bono basis, to defend Mr. Burns while helping improve communications between the diabetic community and law enforcement.

No comments: