Boston Settles for $1.3 Million With Man Who Was Arrested During Stroke And Denied Care

Al Copeland had a stroke while driving and pulled over where police found him and cuffed him.

The city of Boston settled for $1.3 million with a man who had a stroke, but was instead arrested without police, EMT or hospital staff giving him aid. It’s one of the largest settlements of its type, according to Boston public radio station WBUR.

Al Copeland, 62, was driving in Boston one night in April 2019, when he started to feel nauseous and pulled over in front of the Berklee College of Music.  Police found him slumped over his steering wheel and arrested him, even writing in the report they smelled alcohol.  Copeland says he hasn’t had a drink since 1995.  

Copeland was taken to the police station and could barely stand. Police left him to use the bathroom in a holding cell, but in the throes of a stroke, he fell to the floor, bangind his head on the wall as he tumbled.  Police records show officers left him alone in the cell to “sleep it off." 

Only after Copeland began to vomit ⁠— five hours after police first arrested ⁠ — that an ambulance was summoned.

Copeland was taken from that cell to Tufts Medical Center. Police records show that medical personnel also assumed he was drunk. They left him languishing in the emergency room for seven more hours.

His wife Valerie finally managed to track down her husband. Only then did doctors confirm he had no drugs or alcohol in his system, instead he’d suffered a stroke. She believes her husband was neglected because he is Black.

Copeland remained hospitalized for weeks before moving to rehab. He had to leave his job. Today he has difficulty walking or even eating.

Tufts apologized for its part in what happened to Copeland, but told WBUR it couldn’t comment on his care or any legal dealings with his case. Since this incident, they added social workers to assist patients who can’t communicate and formed a center for diversity, equity and inclusion to reduce disparities in care.

The Boston Police Department investigated once the family’s attorney contacted the city. Investigators faulted two officers and a sergeant for neglect of duty- not for claiming to have found Copeland drunk driving and dumping him unattended in a cell. They were cited for not responding fast enough after Copeland fell and hit his head.

The department has yet to discipline the officers, even though the internal investigation ended more than a year ago, according to WBUR.

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