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White Officer Cleared In Hospital Death Of Black Woman

Leon County Judge John Cooper on June 30, 2022, in a screen grab from The Florida Channel.
The Florida Channel
Barbara Dawson.

The white police officer who handcuffed a black woman outside a Florida hospital where she died less than two hours later will not face charges.

Glenn Hess, state attorney for Florida's 14th Judicial Circuit, has completed his review of the Florida Department of Law Enforcement's investigative summary. In a letter to FDLE Special Agent Travis Lawson, Hess said his office found Blountstown police officer John Tadlock's actions in the arrest of 57-year-old Barbara Dawson were "appropriate under the circumstances and there was no criminal law violation."

Police Chief Mark Mallory asked FDLE to investigate the incident shortly after Dawson's death.

Tadlock was dispatched to Calhoun-Liberty Hospital on Dec. 21 after Dawson refused to leave the emergency room. Dawson was discharged because she didn't feel well. In dashcam audio and video that was released in January, Tadlock told Angela Donar, who is Dawson's aunt and also in the room, "she can walk out peacefully or be arrested."

After refusing to seek health care elsewhere, Dawson was arrested for disorderly conduct and trespassing. The oxygen hose was disconnected and Tadlock walked Dawson out of the facility to the police car, holding her by the arm and nudging her along.

Dawson fell to the ground near the patrol car while Tadlock reached for his keys. Dawson cut her feet and knees.

After she collapsed, Tadlock told Dawson that "falling down and laying down, that's not going to stop you from going to jail. If I have to get help to get you in this car. ... You are only making things worse on you." There was a nearly 18-minute gap from when Dawson collapsed until she was taken back to the emergency room for a second time.

Tadlock, who immediately called his supervisors after Dawson was readmitted, is heard saying that he thought Dawson "was being non-compliant by not trying to get in my car and faking it."

The medical examiner's office found that Dawson died from a blood clot due to being excessively overweight.

The Tallahassee law firm Parks & Crump, which has handled cases including the deaths of Trayvon Martin and Michael Brown, has been hired by Dawson's family and is continuing its own investigation before pursing possible legal action against the police department, hospital or both.

Calhoun Liberty Hospital was fined $45,000 by Florida's Agency for Health Care Administration for deficiencies in care that AHCA Secretary Elizabeth Dudek called egregious. Two nurses, including the emergency room supervisor, and a paramedic were eventually fired.