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Minneapolis woman claims racism after police, EMS allegedly use ketamine on sick boyfriend

She said he was having a seizure due to diabetes, but police and EMS allegedly administered a potentially deadly dose of ketamine, which put him in the ICU.

A Minneapolis woman is accusing the Minneapolis Police Department and Hennepin HealthCare of racism after she said her Black boyfriend was having a seizure and they administered a potentially fatal amount of ketamine.

The incident happened the morning of Sunday, July 26, at their apartment in the Uptown area of Minneapolis, Abby Florence wrote in a Facebook post on Friday, July 31, about her boyfriend Max Jonson.

"This happened because Max is a 6-foot-5 Black man. My whiteness was not enough to save him from the Hennepin Healthcare EMS and MPD’s egregious racism and life-threatening decisions," Johnson wrote. "I believe that police brutality and racism is more of a health risk to Max than his Type I diabetes."

According to her account, Johnson was having a seizure and she called 911. While on the phone with 911, she noticed Johnson's "cold, clammy hands" and knew he was hypoglycemic (dangerously low blood sugar) and that caused his seizure. She told this to the dispatchers and to Hennepin Healthcare EMS when they arrived at their apartment about 5 minutes later.

Once EMS arrived, Florence said Johnson was in a post-seizure state, noting he was calm and catatonic. She says they waited about 7 minutes to administer glucagon, despite Florence telling them she believed low-blood sugar caused this.  

She says the glucagon was administered after Johnson "came to" from his seizure. He subsequently doesn't remember anything, but Florence says he was "observably terrified" and whispered, "Help me, help me." 

Johnson became combative when EMS and two firemen "forcibly held him down," trying to relax him, she said. 

EMS had called police for backup, and Florence said officers kept coming in their small apartment until it was filled.

Despite Florence having told EMS she believes he seized due to his Type 1 Diabetes, police repeatedly asked her what drugs Johnson was on, saying, "I don't want to search your apartment, I just need to know what he's on."

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Florence heard an officer tell another that they had administered "three ketamine, a 'V' word drug, and eight ketamine." A few days later, she found out Johnson was given 20 milligrams of Versed and 500 milligrams of ketamine, alleging what police did was "attempted murder," citing it was the same amount of ketamine given to Elijah McClain who died in Colorado in 2019. 

"... Max was wrongfully put in the ICU due to the racism of Hennepin Healthcare EMS and MPD that consequently led to the use of a potentially deadly dose of ketamine," Florence wrote, noting he was on a ventilator in ICU for two days but is back home now.

According to Florence, she spoke with the medical director of the emergency department at Hennepin Healthcare, who agreed that this wouldn't have happened of Johnson was white. 

Hennepin Healthcare issued the following statement in response to the allegations:

"We have seen the social media discussion about the care a patient received in our system. We do not discuss individual patient care publicly, but when a patient or family member has concerns we answer their questions about the medical decisions that were made.

"It is critical that we listen to the perspectives of people of color who are concerned that the care and treatment they receive may be different, based only on the color of their skin. We see and acknowledge the data that shows huge disparities in health outcomes in Minnesota based on race. We own this reality as a health system and are committed to working to ensure that health systems do not contribute to these harms."

BMTN reached out to the Minneapolis Police Department on Friday, but it has not responded. 

Ketamine use controversy in Minneapolis

The use of ketamine, which has historically been known for being a horse tranquilizer, has been scrutinized in recent years after a Star Tribune investigation found Minneapolis Police Department urged Hennepin Healthcare EMS to use it to subdue people during distress calls, which in some cases led to people to stop breathing or their hearts to stop. 

The City of Minneapolis called for an investigation. In 2019, Hennepin Healthcare released its review into ketamine use on police subjects, vowing to change its procedures

Minnesota state Rep. Mohamud Noor, DFL-Minneapolis, in a post on Facebook called for an "immediate investigation" into what happened.

He told WCCO in a statement, "It is unacceptable that this man, who was experiencing a medical emergency, was given this dangerous drug that can result in life-threatening conditions — as it did in this case."

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