Chicago grandfather mistakenly left for dead for hours by CFD paramedics

CHICAGO (WLS) -- The I-Team has learned that the Chicago Fire Department is conducting an internal investigation after first responders mistakenly left a Chicago grandfather for dead on his apartment floor this past February.

Whitfield Marshall, 64, was a car mechanic and a U.S. Marine. After Gabray Carter got the call that his grandfather had died, Carter and his girlfriend went to Marshall's apartment to see him one last time before the funeral home picked up his body.

"The apartment is so small, so she opened the door and went in but I could see from the door that he was on the ground," said Carter.

Julia Morris went in first and saw that Marshall was still moving - so she called out his name.

"He was moving his arms," said Carter. "I was terrified. I was actually terrified because my best friend was laying on the ground! Helpless!"

"It was crazy you know? It was something I never saw ever in life, you know? I was panicking," said Morris. "I didn't know what to do, I just wanted him to get help right then and there."

The couple is in training to become paramedics and they said Marshall was moving and moaning. They called 911 and found his pulse.

"There's no way he could be moving if he's dead, so I just knew he was alive. He needed help," said Morris.

"If I was in that situation, I definitely would have been able to save him if I was the EMT who came the first time" said Carter.

Chicago Fire Department records show it had been more than three and half hours since the first team of paramedics left.

When EMS arrived the second time, they took Marshall, breathing and with a weak pulse, to the waiting ambulance. As they rushed him to Stroger Hospital, he had a heart attack.

Three days later the family decided to take Marshall off of life support.

"It is certain. They took his chance away from him," said the family's attorney Dan Biederman. "He laid on that floor for three and a half hours struggling and it's absolutely clear had they gotten him to that hospital earlier, his chances of surviving were much much greater."

Records from the first ambulance run say the crew found Marshall "face down hard, cold, with blood pooling on his whole front side." EMS told the police he was DOA - Dead On Arrival. There are no notations showing any kind of medical exam or attempted treatment.

"It's stunning that this happened," said Biederman. "Why those paramedics left, those paramedics didn't examine him? If Julia could feel a heartbeat three and a half hours later they clearly didn't feel for a heartbeat, they never should have left that apartment."

After the incident, the paramedics involved were immediately suspended for two weeks and were retrained. They're now back on the job as the fire department continues an internal investigation. That investigation could eventually lead to additional discipline or even potential firings.

Marshall's family is now suing the city for failing to treat or transport him to the hospital the first time, leaving him for dead.

"I want to get justice for my grandfather," said Carter. He says the man he called his "best friend" and "role model" would want him "to do anything in my power to make sure that this didn't happen to anyone else in the City of Chicago."

A CFD spokesman says department officials hold "emergency personnel to the highest level of professional standards and take seriously our duty to address misconduct" and they "are committed to holding accountable any emergency personnel who have fallen short of their duty."

The I-Team has learned that the Illinois Department of Public Health is also investigating the incident.
Copyright © 2020 WLS-TV. All Rights Reserved.