Rep. Pressley, Senator Warren Introduce the Andrew Kearse Act to Hold Police Officers Criminally Liable for Denying Medical Care to People in Custody

June 5, 2020
Press Release

WASHINGTON – Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley (D-MA) and Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) will introduce the Andrew Kearse Accountability for Denial of Medical Care Act to hold law enforcement officers criminally liable for failing to obtain medical assistance for people in custody experiencing medical distress. Senators Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) and Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.) are original co-sponsors.

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. Earlier this week, Senator Warren and Congresswoman Pressley participated in a discussion with community leaders and loved ones of Andrew Kearse, Eric Garner, and other Black men and women who died in  police custody. The lawmakers committed to introducing the Andrew Kearse Act during their conversation with Andrew's widow, Angelique Negroni-Kearse. 

"Andrew Kearse should be alive. To be denied medical care while in police custody is cruel and inhumane. In his name, Senator Warren and I are calling for accountability. Earlier this week we spoke with Andrew's family and were deeply impacted by their grief. Far too many Black Americans have died in police custody. As the COVID 19 pandemic ravages our communities, including those behind the wall, we must codify in law that officers should be held criminally liable for denying medical care to people in custody," said Congresswoman Pressley

"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."

"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. Read the full statement here.

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.

 

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