Legislation Will Hold Police Officers
Criminally Liable for Denying Medical Care to People in Custody
Washington, DC - Today, on the 4th anniversary of Andrew
Kearse's death, United States Senators Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.) and Elizabeth
Warren (D-Mass.), and Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley (D-Mass.) reintroduce the
Andrew Kearse Accountability for Denial of Medical Care Act to hold law
enforcement officers criminally liable for failing to obtain medical assistance
to people in custody experiencing medical distress. This legislation is
co-sponsored by Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Kirsten
Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) and
Representatives Adriano Espaillat (NY-13) and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez
On May 11, 2017, Andrew Kearse, a 36-year-old Black man, died of a heart
attack in the back of a police cruiser after begging a police officer for help.
Instead of providing Mr. Kearse with medical assistance, the officer dismissed
his pleas and waited precious minutes until after Mr. Kearse became
nonresponsive to call for medical assistance. Despite failing to seek
potentially life-saving care for Mr. Kearse, the officer involved was not
charged with a crime.The Andrew
was first introduced in 2020 after the lawmakers committed to
introduce the legislation during a conversation with Andrew's widow, Angelique
"Andrew Kearse died begging for help and the police officer who looked the
other way got off scot-free. Our bill will make sure that officers who fail to
obtain potentially life-saving care for people in their custody are held
accountable," said Senator Warren. "This legislation
is just one step - I will keep working with my colleagues for a complete
overhaul of our policing and justice systems."
"There can be no justice for Andrew Kearse or the many others who have
died after being denied medical care while in custody. Justice would mean
they'd still be alive today. There must, however, be accountability,"
said Congresswoman Pressley. "We must pursue policies that keep
Black, brown and other marginalized folks alive. If, God forbid, they die at
the hands of law enforcement, the officer responsible cannot just simply walk
away. I'm grateful to my colleagues for their partnership on this legislation
and look forward to continuing our work to build a just legal system that
centers the dignity and humanity of all people."
"There is so much that has to be done to reimagine a criminal justice
system that is fundamentally designed to dehumanize our communities," said
Congresswoman Ocasio-Cortez. "The Andrew Kearse Act is a critical
first step. Mr. Kearse's death was a direct result of that officer's actions
and, yet, the officer faced no criminal charges. For Mr. Kearse, and so
many others, we must demand accountability."
"I want to thank all of you who have shown continued support not only
for me and my husband but for everyone who has fought the good fight. I want
the names of Andrew Kearse, Eric Garner, Mike Brown and George Floyd to not be
a passing memory but something that sticks with us through the toughest of
times so that we can remember the trials and tribulations those before us
have suffered. I also want to thank Senator Warren and Ayanna Pressley for
helping with the passing of the Andrew Kearse law. I want to strive for a
future where the words I can't breathe come from a place of laughter not from a
place of fear. A future where our youth doesn't have to worry if it's their
last day on earth. A future where everyone can breathe," said
Angelique Negroni-Kearse, widow of Andrew Kearse.
The Andrew Kearse Accountability for Denial of Medical Care Act would:
- Hold federal law enforcement officials
criminally liable when they fail to obtain or provide medical care to
individuals in their custody who are experiencing medical distress.
- Require training for federal law enforcement
officials on assisting individuals in medical distress.
- Direct the Inspectors General of the agencies that
employ federal law enforcement officers to investigate potential violations and
refer them to the Department of Justice for prosecution.