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Why Didn’t San Antonio Police Immediately Apply First Aid To Darrell Zemault Sr. After Shooting Him?

DarrellZemaultCrop.jpg
Courtesy of Celeste Brown
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San Antonio police officers waited more than 1 minute to apply first aid to Darrel Zemault Sr. after they shot him in front of his house.

The officers were attempting to arrest him for outstanding warrants when, they claim, he grabbed one of their guns, and an officer shot him in the back. But the San Antonio Police Department has not provided video footage and has refused to confirm that the alleged action was even captured on the body cams.

Zemault Sr. was pronounced dead at 2:29 p.m., according to a heavily redacted police report obtained by Texas Public Radio through an open records request.

The report was written by an officer who arrived after the shooting. Part of the report said that, “(One officer) retrieved his medical kit from his patrol car and returned to apply pressure to (Darrell Zemault Sr.).”

Two bystander videos obtained by TPR show the immediate aftermath of the shooting. In the initial 56-second video — recorded before the reporting officer arrived at the scene — at least five other officers stand around Zemault Sr. as he lies motionless next to the cabinets. None of them render first aid.

In a subsequent 2-minute and 49-second video, an officer appears to apply pressure to the gunshot wound.

SAPD said the shooting occurred at 1:45 p.m. According to the files' metadata, the first video was recorded seconds before 1:46, and the second video was recorded three minutes later.

Celeste Brown, who described Zemault Sr. as a “second father,” said she found the officers’ response “infuriating.”

"We're talking about a matter of life and death, right?" she said. "If pressure was applied to the wound, he could still be here."

SAPD declined to comment on the videos.

When TPR asked about first aid expectations for “officer-involved shootings,” an SAPD public information officer forwarded a copy-and-pasted section of the department’s policy. It lists “care for the injured” as one of the post-shooting responsibilities of the involved officers. But the policy does not lay out an exact timeline of instructions.

Texas Public Radio asked, “In department training and policy, how quickly are officers expected to render first aid after shooting someone?” SAPD responded with the same copy-and-pasted section of policy.

Sharmila Dissanaike is the chair of surgery at Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center and the chief of surgery at University Medical Center in Lubbock. She’s taught several “Stop The Bleed” courses, which provide guidance on how to respond to bleeding emergencies. She told TPR about general best practices for first response to gunshot wounds.

“The best thing you can do to save their life is to reduce the blood loss,” she said. “So what you do is to try to put pressure on the site of the injury. If it's on the torso — so if someone is shot or stabbed, and there's an open wound on their chest or abdomen that's actively bleeding — then what we recommend is taking any clean or clean-ish cloth — like a T-shirt — and wadding it up, and holding pressure with your fist to help stop the bleeding.”

For wounds to legs or arms, she recommended a tourniquet.

She said some injuries — especially to the heart or to the lung — are almost impossible to treat outside of an operating room. But for all gunshot wounds, Dissanaike said timely care is critical.

“If someone is bleeding to death, then every second matters,” she said. “And the quicker we can get control of bleeding, the better the chances of that person living. So literally every second matters.”

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