Moral Low Ground


Anna Brown, Homeless Woman, Dies in Missouri Jail after Hospital Trespass Arrest

A homeless Missouri woman died in jail after being arrested for refusing to leave a hospital because she felt she hadn’t received adequate care.

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports that 29-year-old Anna Brown, an African-American homeless woman and mother of two, was arrested at St. Mary’s Hospital in Richmond Heights last September after refusing to leave the facility. Brown had already been to two other local hospitals complaining of knee and ankle pain. X-rays showed nothing wrong, but doctors at Cardinal Glennon Children’s Medical Center found tenderness in her legs.

When informed that she was in a children’s hospital, Brown was taken by ambulance to St. Mary’s with a swollen left ankle. She remained there for seven hours and had ultrasounds on both legs, which revealed no blood clots. She was given a list of homeless shelters and a phone number for transportation.

Eight hours later, Brown returned to St. Mary’s complaining of abdominal pain. She was discharged but refused to sign the discharge papers. That’s when police were called to respond to a woman claiming she “did not receive adequate medical attention and did not have to leave.”

Responding officers waited three hours for a doctor to examine Brown and determine she was healthy enough to be arrested. After issuing a “Fit for Confinement” report, Brown was apprehended and taken to jail. When she told officers she couldn’t move, they pulled her into the station by her arms. They listed “suspected drug use” as her physical condition and “unknown leg pain” in her medical notes.

Brown was carried by her arms and legs and laid on a cell floor. Fifteen minutes later, a jail worker found her unresponsive. Emergency medical measures were undertaken and Brown was transported back to St. Mary’s.

An autopsy found no sign of any drugs in her system.

Dorothy Davis, Brown’s mother was distraught.

“If the police killed my daughter, I want to know,” she told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. “If the hospital is at fault, I want to know. I want to be able to tell her children why their mother isn’t here.”

Brown had her share of troubles in life, to put it lightly. She was raising her two young children alone, homeless after a tornado destroyed her North St. Louis home on New Year’s Eve 2010. She’d lost her job shortly after that, and after falling behind on her bills, water, gas and light were disconnected. Child welfare officials found her home in a horrific state when they visited and Brown lost custody of her children. She ended up on the streets, probably suffering from mental illness.

St. Mary’s Hospital staff say they did nothing wrong.

“Our records show that, in this case, everything that should have been done medically was done properly,” a hospital statement read. “We found nothing that would have changed this tragic outcome.”

Richmond Heights Police Chief Maj. Roy Wright offered this excuse: “A lot of times people don’t want to stay in jail and will claim to be sick. We depend on medical officials to tell us they’re OK.”

But Krystle Brown, Anna’s sister, told the Post-Dispatch that prejudice killed the hapless woman.

“She was not a drug dealer or a hooker or doing other things that she could’ve ended up dead for. People assume things because of the way they talk or the way they live or the things they do.”

“My sister is not here today because people passed judgment.”

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