Lawsuit: Police Urged Paramedics to Sedate Minnesota Man

MINNEAPOLIS — An attorney for a Minneapolis man is drawing parallels between his client’s lawsuit and the recent debate over police urging paramedics to sedate unruly people.

John Powell, 48, said he suffered breathing problems and needed emergency care after suburban police allegedly asked paramedics to inject him with the powerful sedative ketamine three years ago. Powell filed a federal lawsuit in December against North Memorial Medical Center in Robbinsdale and the Robbinsdale and Brooklyn Center police departments. The three parties have denied any misconduct.

In a recent interview, Powell told the Star Tribune he spent a day in the hospital unconscious. The Star Tribune reported last month on a draft report questioning whether Minneapolis officers inappropriately urged paramedics to sedate people with ketamine. City officials have appointed former Deputy U.S. Attorney General Sally Yates to investigate whether police acted inappropriately.

Powell’s attorney, Kenneth Udoibok, said his client’s case raises similar questions about how police and paramedics interact, and whether sedatives are used for convenience rather than medical necessity.

“The thesis of the case still remains the same: the police suggested, encouraged, asked paramedics to inject Powell with ketamine,” Udoibok said.

Police were called to North Memorial on the night of July 17, 2015, on a report of an armed man in a car. Powell was detained at gunpoint, but he was black – not the white or light-skinned Hispanic person the caller had described — and he was holding car keys, not a revolver. The nurse who made the 911 call also told officers they had the wrong man.

Officers described Powell, who was visiting a cousin at the hospital that night, as screaming profanities and being “verbally out of control.” After Powell was put in a squad car, officers asked paramedics to examine Powell because of his “uncontrollable irrational behavior,” according to police reports. Paramedics injected Powell with ketamine and brought him to the hospital, where he was intubated. He was never charged with a crime.

The lawsuit alleges the officers violated Powell’s constitutional rights by inappropriately detaining him and inviting paramedics to sedate him. A spokeswoman for North Memorial said the hospital, along with Hennepin Healthcare, will participate in an independent review of cases cited in the draft report. The review will not include Powell’s case, which involved Robbinsdale and Brooklyn Center officers.

Powell reached a confidential settlement with North Memorial earlier this year, but his claims are still pending against Brooklyn Center and Robbinsdale police. Jason Hiveley, an attorney for the Robbinsdale police, denied the allegation that police asked paramedics to sedate Powell. Hiveley has asked a judge to dismiss the case.

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