Police custody death: Could suspect have been treated earlier?

Lance Royal

FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) — Authorities said they were simply doing their job. But a Fort Wayne attorney questions their response.

The opinions refer to the case of Lance Royal. Fort Wayne detectives said they saw Royal, 33, ingest narcotics, refuse treatment, and die in their custody after being detained for about an hour and a half Thursday.

Thursday Timeline

11:04 a.m. — Detectives pull over Porshea Gentry, 31, on two counts of dealing cocaine. Royal was riding with her. Officers said they saw the two ingest what they think was cocaine.

11:11 a.m. — Gentry told officers she didn’t feel well.

11:18 a.m. — Medics arrived. Police said Royal was distant, didn’t say much, and verbally denied medical treatment.

11:40 a.m. — Medics transport Gentry to the hospital in critical condition.

11:41 a.m. — Royal was taken to the police station for questioning. Police said he was placed in the interview room and monitored by officers.

12:30 p.m. — Authorities called medics after Royal went into medical distress. Officers performed CPR on Royal.

12:34 p.m. — Medics arrive and transport Royal to the hospital. He died en route.

Refused Treatment

Officer Michael Joyner with FWPD said authorities couldn’t legally take Royal to the hospital following the traffic stop, because he denied treatment.

“We can’t force him to seek medical attention. It’s his decision. He had the capacity to make an informed decision. He made that,” Joyner said. “Being a medic for 11 years in Virginia, I have seen situations where we have had to sit there until a person has become incapacitated before we can transport. It’s patient rights.”

Still, Rachel Guin questions the decision. Guin is a civil rights attorney for Christopher Myers and Associates, said to be one of the leading firms in the state for dealing with police misconduct cases.

At this point, Guin won’t say police were in the wrong. But she wonders why authorities didn’t take more serious measures to get Royal to the hospital earlier.

“This person may not have been in the right frame of mind to be making decisions for himself,” Guin said. If that was the case, officers could have legally transported Royal to the hospital.

She continued, “I don’t know why under these circumstances, and again the facts as we know them, this gentleman wouldn’t have been taken to the hospital at least for clearance from a doctor before he was taken downtown, particularly knowing the condition of his female partner.”

As of Friday afternoon, Gentry remained in critical condition. Royal’s official cause of death is still pending.

The Indiana State Police, FWPD, Allen County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office, and the Allen County Coroner’s Office continue to investigate.

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