Chest Pain At a Funeral: You Can’t Make This Stuff Up

A few years ago we were sent to a suburban cemetery for a 35 YOM with chest pain.  Expecting to encounter a young man who was upset about the loss of a loved one, we were surprised to see a parade of police cars from every agency within 20 miles flying into the cemetery ahead of us.  There was also a parade of vehicles fleeing the scene.
We parked at the end of a long line of police cars, and saw dozens of cops and a hundred or so mourners next to a grave site.  Some of the cops had riot gear on, and others had dogs.  We were not told about any of this.

We were directed to a 300+ pound gentleman wearing a suit, standing next to three cops, who was handcuffed.  He was very polite and cooperative to us, but a number of angry people in the crowd shouted obscenities at him. We were told that he had complained of chest pain after being placed into custody.  We were also told that a lady had been assaulted, and that she was seated in a chair next to the grave site.  We requested another ambulance, quickly put the guy in handcuffs on the stretcher, and moved him away from the crowd to the ambulance.

I began to assess him while my partner went to check on the assault victim.  Despite his young age, he had a good story and history of CHF.  He had hypertrophy on his ECG and crackles in his lungs, so I treated him with our ACS protocol.  Another ambulance arrived and took the assault victim to another hospital.

On our way to the hospital we passed the police station, which prompted our patient to say “Man, I wish I never said I had chest pain.  I’d rather just go to jail and get this over with.” With your history, I said politely (and size, I thought), it’s probably a good idea to get checked out at the hospital.  I never asked why he was in handcuffs.

At the hospital, a cop told me what happened.  The funeral was for a 17-year-old who had been shot in some type of gang turf battle.  The assault victim was his mother, and our patient was his uncle.  For some reason, the uncle blamed the deceased’s mother for her son getting shot.  He chose to express his anger by  punching the grieving mother in the face just after the casket had been lowered into the ground. This left no mistake about how he really felt, and sparked a small riot.

So much for the poor person with a panic attack we were expecting. I’ve seen enough people do horrible things to each other, but this hit a new low.


  1. Dominick Walenczak says:

    I feel for the guy. Though the way he chose to express it might not have been appropriate and socially acceptable, he is undeniably going through some of the same stages of grief (under the Kübler-Ross model) that the victim’s mother is. Anyhow, the scenario you described sounds fully puzzling and confusing as you’re pulling up. In EMS, some of this stuff just can’t be made up. 😉

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