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Body removal broke protocol

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June 13, 2007

Albany  --  Matthew Thomas shot and killed himself at his home June 4th. But as WALB News 10 first told you last week, the coroner was never called to the scene.

The Georgia Coroner Association says state law is clear and APD broke those laws.

 Three hours into a police standoff with Matthew Thomas, he put his .38 caliber revolver to his head and pulled the trigger. Albany Police Chief James Younger admits the coroner was never at the scene to pronounce Matthew Thomas dead. Not only is it standard practice for the coroner to be called to a death scene, it's the law, and that law was apparently broken.

Here is tape of the 911 call--
  
Officer: "Do you know if the coroner has be notified already?"
Dispatch: "Car 50 That's a negative."

That's right. Dougherty County coroner Emma Qiumbley wasn't notified immediately following the shooting. 911 police tapes confirm it.

"Once it's been determine that a death has occurred the coroner's office should be notified," says Coroner Emma Quimbley.

In fact, she was never called to the shooting scene. 911 Tape: "I have the coroner on the phone, you still want her to come out to the scene on Station Crossing?"

Officer: "That's a negative. The body has already been transported to Phoebe."

So Thomas wasn't pronounced dead until after his body arrived at the hospital. And that, says Georgia Coroner's Association President Grover Tuten, violates the law.

In fact, Tuten says three laws were broken:

  • First when Albany Police failed to immediately notify the coroner or county medical examiner
  • Second, when neither a coroner nor a physician was called to the scene to pronounce Thomas dead
  • Third, when police ordered paramedics to move the body without the coroner's permission.

Quimbley said she heard the call on her city radio and eventually called 911 herself to see if she was needed. "I was concerned because my office had not been paged, and at that time it had not been confirmed that we did have a code zero in the city."

The police chief initially tried to put the responsibility on EMS, saying they are usually the ones who call the coroner. But then he acknowledged that it's ultimately up to police to get the coroner to a death scene.

Since the incident, Quimbley has met and spoken with Police Chief James Younger. She told us she could not give us any details on what that conversation involved, because this is still an open investigation, and she is still waiting on some answers to the question she had over how this was handled.

Quimbley said she doesn't believe there is anything suspicious with Thomas' death. Thomas' body was cremated over the weekend.


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