Marchers remember woman who died after being arrested at hospital

2012-04-07T00:05:00Z 2012-05-25T14:06:34Z Marchers remember woman who died after being arrested at hospitalBY CHRISTINE BYERS • cbyers@post-dispatch.com > 314-340-8087 stltoday.com

RICHMOND HEIGHTS • For six months, Krystle Brown had only tears and anger when she spoke of her homeless sister's death. Friday, there was a smile.

"To see all of these people out here ... it's just unbelievable," Brown said, looking at a crowd of about 75 who gathered outside St. Mary's Health Center to call for better care for the underprivileged.

Anna Brown, 29, died Sept. 21 on the floor of a Richmond Heights jail cell shortly after being arrested at St. Mary's Health Center for trespassing. She died of a blood clot that traveled from her legs to her lungs shortly after the hospital released her and found her fit for confinement.

About 60 people kicked off Friday's event outside the St. Louis County administration building in Clayton, chanting "Justice for Anna Brown!" and "Justice for the homeless!" Their numbers grew on the march to the hospital.

The Rev. Larry Rice, an advocate for the homeless, scheduled the protest for Good Friday. Some participants held crosses bearing Anna Brown's name.

Christina Bardner, 16, of Florissant, attended with her brother and parents, holding a sign that read: "Health care not handcuffs," with a pair of plastic handcuffs taped to it.

St. Mary's said in a prepared statement: "We respect the demonstrators' desire to raise awareness about the needs of persons who are homeless in our community."

The Post-Dispatch first reported March 24 that Brown had been to three hospitals during the week before her death, complaining of leg pain. Police escorted her out of St. Louis University Hospital Sept. 20. She wheeled herself to nearby Cardinal Glennon Children's Medical Center, which called an ambulance to take her to St. Mary's.

There, Richmond Heights police arrested her after she was seen by medical workers and refused to leave, insisting the care was inadequate.

An independent investigation by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid found St. Mary's did not turn Brown away, and therefore complied with federal law.

Officers dragged Brown into the jail and left her struggling to breathe on the floor of a jail cell where she ultimately died. Police Maj. Roy Wright, who has since been promoted to chief, said officers acted appropriately.

The hospital's statement emphasized that it did provide care, and noted that testing can fail to detect blood clots.

"It is our hope that something positive can come from Ms. Brown's tragic story," the statement says. "St. Mary's is working to bring together a variety of organizations — medical, social, and behavioral — throughout the community so that collectively we can all better address the growing and complex needs of our region's most vulnerable people. We are committed to this issue and we will have more to say about our progress in the weeks ahead."

St. Louis County Prosecuting Attorney Robert McCulloch is reviewing Brown's death for any evidence of criminal conduct.

To Krystle Brown, it was "total neglect." She said. "Nobody cared when she said she was in pain. She died because they neglected her care because they judged her."

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