The opinion of the court was delivered by: Bucklo, District Judge.
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
Omar Ramirez, a 32 year old Latino man, died of asphyxiation
after being handcuffed behind his back by Chicago police
officers, thrown face down on the street, beaten, and refused
care by Chicago Fire Department paramedics. The plaintiffs sued
on his behalf for violation of his constitutional civil rights
under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and Illinois law, alleging that: (1) the
police officers present, in their individual capacities, caused
his death, failed to protect him, and failed to provide medical
attention, (2) Chicago Fire Department paramedics Leon, Janozik,
and Cren failed to provide medical attention, (3) the officers
and paramedics conspired to deprive Mr. Ramirez of his
constitutional civil rights, and (4) these violations of Mr.
Ramirez's rights occurred under a pattern or practice of the City
of Chicago that leads to such violations. In addition, the
plaintiffs allege some state law causes of action. The officers
move to dismiss the individual capacity claims, and paramedics
Janozik and Leon (the "paramedics"*fn1) move to dismiss the
claims against them. I deny the officer's motions in part and
grant them in part, and I deny the paramedics' motion.
On June 20, 1988, when Omar Ramirez visited a friend on Archer
Street in Chicago, he appeared paranoid and nervous. He was
sweating profusely, paced the floor, and said people were trying
to kill him. He had used alcohol and cocaine that evening and had
been doing cocaine for two days. He kicked out a window screen
and jumped two stories to the ground, fracturing a heel. He
limped across the street to a bar, where several patrons observed
his dilated pupils, and repeated his claims that people were
trying to do him harm. The bartender called the police, informing
them she thought he was on drugs and acting insane. A fight broke
out that involved Mr. Ramirez, the bartender, and several
Shortly thereafter Officers Krueger and Vail arrived. They
seized Mr. Ramirez and handcuffed him behind the back, then
dragged him outside. He was screaming that his leg was broken.
They dropped him face down in the street while cuffed,
restricting his breathing, hit him twice in the head with
nightsticks, stepped on his injured leg, pulled his hair, kneed
him in the back, and allowed a tavern patron to step on his legs
as he screamed in pain. Sometime during this process, the
officers called for Chicago Fire Department paramedics.
Paramedics Leon and Janozik were dispatched, but when they
arrived, they refused to treat Mr. Ramirez or transport him in
their ambulance to a hospital with a trauma center. Witnesses
told the officers and paramedics about Mr. Ramirez's drug and
The officers then put Mr. Ramirez face down on his belly, still
cuffed behind his back, in a squadrol, an automobile that is used
by police as both a squad car and an ambulance. He was left
unsupervised in this position while he was transported to St.
Anthony De Padua Hospital in Chicago, which has no trauma center.
The officers did not clear his air passage or make sure that he
was still breathing. Upon arrival, they put him in a wheelchair,
still handcuffed, and rolled him into the emergency room. A
physician noted that he appeared to be dead. Resuscitation
efforts failed, and he was pronounced dead sixteen minutes after
arrival. An autopsy determined that the cause of death was
asphyxiation from being handcuffed while intoxicated on alcohol
and cocaine. Mr. Ramirez was survived by four minor children and
I begin by addressing paramedics Janozik's and Leon's motion to
dismiss. In deciding a motion to dismiss for failure to state a
claim upon which relief can be granted under Fed. R. Civ. P
12(b)(6) the only question is whether the complaint raised
allegations that, if proven, would entitle the plaintiff to
relief. See Int'l Marketing, Ltd. v. Archer-Daniels-Midland Co.,
Inc., 192 F.3d 724, 729 (7th Cir. 1999) (citing Conley v.
Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 45-46, 78 S.Ct. 99, 2 L.Ed.2d 80 (1957)).
On a motion to dismiss, I read a complaint liberally and "accept
as true the well-pleaded allegations of the complaint and the
inferences that may be reasonably drawn from those allegations."
Sapperstein v. Hager, 188 F.3d 852, 855 (7th Cir. 1999)
(internal citations omitted).
Without offering any explanation for their behavior towards Mr.
Ramirez, paramedics Janozik and Leon argue first, with respect to
the § 1983 claims, that they had no responsibility to provide him
with medical care because they did not have him in their custody.
Mr. Ramirez's § 1983 claims implicate the Fourteenth Amendment
due process clause, which requires state action. The paramedics
cite DeShaney v. Winnebago Dep't of Social Services,
489 U.S. 189, 199-202, 109 S.Ct. 998, 103 L.Ed.2d 249 (1989), for the
proposition that there is no federal constitutional duty of care
where the plaintiff is not in custody or control of the state
actor. The paramedics argue that because Mr. Ramirez was not in
their custody but that of the Chicago Police Department, they
did not "suddenly acquire a duty to treat a man who was not in
their custody," an argument of breathtaking cynicism.
I agree with the plaintiffs, however, that the paramedics,
public employees who were dispatched specifically to aid Mr.
Ramirez, "suddenly acquired" a constitutional obligation to aid
him when the police defendants, also public employees, took him
into custody on behalf of the City of Chicago, and he was injured
in the process. Chicago Fire Department paramedics have a duty to
aid persons who are injured while in custody of the Chicago
Police, or indeed, the Cook County Sheriff or the Illinois State
Police. State action cannot be diluted by being dispersed over
The paramedics' argument makes no sense because the Police
Department is the agency designated by the state to take persons
into custody, while the Fire Department is designated with the
responsibility, among other things, to provide medical care for
persons in need. On the paramedics' argument, Chicago Fire
Department employees can never have any constitutional duty to
provide anyone in police custody with medical care. But the
Supreme Court has said that due process "require[s] the
responsible government or governmental agency to provide medical
care to persons . . . who have been injured while being
apprehended by the police." City of Revere v. Mass. Gen'l
Hosp., 463 U.S. 239, 244, 103 S.Ct. 2979, 77 L.Ed.2d 605(1985).
The Fire Department and the employees tapped for the job
therefore had a constitutional duty to provide Mr.
Ramirez with medical care while in police custody.
Further, the paramedics' argument contradicts the Seventh
Circuit's reading of DeShaney in a similar set of facts. The
panel there rejected a closely analogous no-duty claim, saying:
Although the state has no general constitutional duty
to provide rescue services, the government may not
cut off all sources of private aid or self-help, and
then decline to provide replacement services. If [the
plaintiff] was in custody from the time the
paramedics arrived — that is, if he was not free to
seek other forms of assistance — then the ...