Severe asthma sufferer died after 'begging police for help' in Brixton

A man with severe asthma died after begging police for help in South London.

An inquest into the death of Ian Taylor heard how the 54-year-old pleaded with officers after he was arrested following a mass brawl in Brixton in 2019.

Mr Taylor was left lying on the street on one of the hottest days of the year without an inhaler, water or medical help, his legal team said.

He was eventually moved to a police car to try to cool him down, but a few minutes later he suffered a cardiac arrest and died in hospital later that evening.

'I can’t breathe… I’m dying'

"‘I need my inhaler… I can’t breathe…I’m dying.’ These were the last pleading words of my nephew," said Ian Taylor’s Aunt, Pauline Taylor.

"He died on the street begging for help not from just one, but seven police officers who casually dismissed his pleas and even went so far as to laugh and mock him.

"What more could he have said in those moments to solicit help and simple humane compassion from those who are sworn to serve and protect," she added.

A jury found the police assessment of the risks to Mr Taylor were inadequate and his death was caused by acute asthma and situational stress, underlying health conditions and dehydration.

Hot weather also meant the demand for ambulances was extremely high with paramedics only responding to the most urgent calls.

Police decided not to take him to a hospital just two streets away, and told Mr Taylor to stop 'acting up'.

'Denied life-saving care'

"Ian Taylor fell seriously ill less than a mile from King’s College Hospital, yet even though he was in the back of a police car decisions were made that denied him the life-saving care he needed," said Hayley Chapman, Solicitor at Hodge Jones & Allen.

"This is yet another case where the Met Police have under-estimated the calls for help from a Black man in serious medical difficulty, with a tragic outcome."

The Coroner said that it was "dismaying" the Met Police had done nothing for the last three years to address the conduct of the officer who had dismissed Mr Taylor’s pleas for help as "nonsense".

The officer's case has been referred to the police watchdog, the IOPC, for further investigation.

"Watching the video footage of Ian fighting for breath and desperately pleading for help, but being dismissed and even mocked by police officers, is utterly devastating," said Mr Taylor’s Cousin, Michael Cooper.

"The police are trained to deal with situations like this, yet they did not do what anyone else would have done and drive him to a hospital that was three minutes away.

"No one in the UK should die from asthma and yet Ian did.

"How many more deaths will it take before the police take seriously a Black man who says he can’t breathe?"

In a statement Chief Superintendent Colin Wingrove, from the Central South Basic Command Unit, said: "Mr Taylor’s death was a tragedy and our thoughts and sympathies very much remain with his family and friends.” "The jury gave a narrative verdict and said that Mr Taylor died in part because of situational stress, which was caused by the earlier fight with members of the public followed by being arrested and handcuffed by officers on suspicion of grievous bodily harm. “The arrest was necessary due to reports stating that Mr Taylor was involved in two separate incidents of serious violence that day. ““The jury also said Mr Taylor died in part because the officers’ dynamic risk assessment was not adequate to correctly assess Mr Taylor’s condition in the absence of advice from the London Ambulance Service’s specialist Met Dispatch Group, and no immediately available ambulance due to high demand. “The officers on that day acted in good faith and they did what they thought was best for the welfare of Mr Taylor. However, we acknowledge the comments made by the Coroner and the jury and we will carefully consider their findings and the Preventing Future Deaths report when we receive it. We will also be speaking to our colleagues at the London Ambulance Service to ensure improved partnership working in the future. " “As in all cases where someone dies or suffers serious injury following police contact, we immediately informed the Met’s Directorate of Professional Standards. A mandatory referral was made to the Independent Office for Police Conduct. Following a thorough independent investigation, which also focused on why the police waited for the London Ambulance Service instead of taking him to hospital themselves, the IOPC concluded that there was no case to answer in respect of the conduct of any officer involved in this matter. No local learning was recommended. “However, the Coroner has stated that he will be re-referring the Met to the IOPC in regards to comments made by one of the attending officers. We now await the IOPC’s decision of how the matter will be progressed. It would be inappropriate to comment further on that at this time, save to say that we will actively cooperate in the usual way. “The Metropolitan Police Service is a learning organisation and we always strive to learn and improve. We continually review our policies in line with national guidance around restraint as well as how we assist those suffering from medical emergencies.”