TAMPA, Fla. (Reuters) - The death of a black woman who was forcibly removed by a police officer from a Florida hospital where she had sought treatment is under investigation by state and local authorities, the chief of police in Blountstown, Florida, said on Wednesday.
Barbara Dawson, 57, died naturally from a blood clot in her lungs, which was due to morbid obesity, a preliminary autopsy showed, said Police Chief Mark Mallory in a statement.
Relatives and local leaders of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People are questioning her treatment by law enforcement and the hospital, local media reported.
Her death comes at a time of increased scrutiny of the use of force by law enforcement, particularly against minorities, following a string of national protests over the deaths of mostly unarmed black men during interactions with police.
Dawson was refusing to leave Calhoun Liberty Hospital early on Monday after she had sought treatment at its emergency department and then been discharged by her physician, according to police in Blountstown, located about 50 miles (80 km) west of Tallahassee in the state’s Panhandle.
Relatives told the Tallahassee Democrat newspaper that she felt she needed more medical care.
The hospital called police, and an officer asked her multiple times to leave. After she refused, the officer took her into custody on charges of trespassing and disorderly conduct, police said.
She was handcuffed and escorted out of the hospital, but collapsed as the officer opened the door to a patrol car, according to police.
Dawson was readmitted to the hospital and appeared to be alive when she left police custody, but she later died in the hospital’s emergency department, the police statement said.
Blountstown police said they would continue an internal investigation and have also requested an independent probe by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.
“We all grieve when we lose a community member,” Mallory said in a statement, noting that Blountstown is “a small, close-knit community.”
Reuters could not immediately reach officials at Calhoun Liberty Hospital or Dawson’s family attorneys for comment.
Editing by Matthew Lewis