Wife sues hospital security guards over husband's suffocation

By Kelly Holleran | May 23, 2012


The wife of a recently deceased man has filed suit against the security guards who she claims suffocated the man after restraining him for too long.

Crystal Burkey claims her recently deceased husband, Anthony Burkey, was a patient at Gateway Hospital for "unknown medical disorders" on Dec. 2 when security guards and defendants Charles Knapp, Dylan Ritchie and Shane Biggs threw Anthony Burkey on the floor. They proceeded to strike Anthony Burkey, then forced him to remain on the floor by lying on top of him, according to the complaint filed May 11 in Madison County Circuit Court.

"Anthony Todd Burkey was unable to breathe with Defendants on top of him," the suit states. "In the course of Defendants' actions, they did cause the death of Anthony Todd Burkey."

Following the incident, Knapp and Ritchie were charged with involuntary manslaughter, the complaint says.

In her complaint, Crystal Burkey does not specify why the security guards slammed Anthony Burkey to the floor, but a story in the St. Louis Dispatch reports that Anthony Burkey had knocked down a neighbor's door while apparently hallucinating earlier in the day. Police arrived at his home, arrested him and brought him to Gateway to screen him for medical disorders and to transfer him to the psychiatric department, according to the article.

While at the hospital, Anthony Burkey was given medications to calm his anxiety, but appeared angry when guards tried to move him. Anthony Burkey allegedly made a combative move toward the guards, so they wrestled him to the floor and held him on the mat for about four minutes, according to the article. After Anthony Burkey stopped moving, the guards thought the medicines had kicked in. However, Burkey had died, the article states.

Because of her husband's death, Crystal Burkey claims she lost his society, love, affection, care, attention, companionship, comfort, guidance and financial support.

She blames the guards for causing her husband's death, saying they negligently battered him in his room, forced him to the floor and lay on top of him, did not immediately report his death to their supervisors so that resuscitation attempts could be made and failed to conduct their duties in a safe manner.

In her 12-count complaint, Crystal Burkey is seeking a judgment of more than $600,000, plus costs.

G. Michael Stewart of Simmons, Browder, Gianaris, Angelides and Barnerd in Alton will be representing her.

Madison County Circuit Court case number: 12-L-652.

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