Summerfield, Florida — Marion County Sheriff’s Deputy, Gregory Spicher, has been removed from patrol, and relocated to the Marion County Jail where he will work as a corrections officer. This move was made following an Internal Affairs investigation.
It all started on November 14, 2014, when Deputy Spicher responded to SE 155th Place, Summerfield, Florida, in reference to an attempted suicide involving Anthony Ralph Ybarra, 14.
Upon his arrival, there were two civilians performing Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation (CPR) on Anthony; longtime nurse and close family friend, Karen Van Es, and former paramedic, Jay Timson.
When Deputy Spicher arrived, he instructed the two to cease CPR. This command was aggravated by the fact that once medical personnel arrived within minutes on the scene, they detected cardiac activity and transported Anthony to the hospital.
Anthony, who resided at his home with his mother, Jolene Waldron, 33, step-brother, Jaylon Waldron, 12, and step-sister, Devotion Waldron, 10, had been a student at Kingsbury Academy, an alternative school, and had worked his way back into Belleview Middle School. He had just learned that, due to his disruptive behavior at Belleview Middle School, he was being sent back to Kingsbury Academy. This is the only event that could account for his actions that tragic day.
On November 14, at approximately 3:30 p.m, Anthony was home with his mother and step-sister, Devotion, at which time his mother left the house to go pick up his step-brother, Jaylon. Anthony was restricted to stay inside his house. Once he found out Devotion was not leaving with his mother, he asked to go with her; however, she refused. As soon as Anthony’s mother left the house, Anthony ran out the front door and when the mother returned, at 3:40 p.m., she learned Anthony had gone outside.
She then went outside and called for him; however, he did not answer.
Jaylon, who shares a room with Anthony, went to his room. After a few minutes he looked out the window and saw the lower part of Anthony, and his feet weren’t touching the ground. He yelled to his mother to come into his room. Jaylon stated, “I don’t think he is standing up.” His mother responded, “don’t say that.” They both ran outside and discovered Anthony hanging from a tree.
Jolene (mother) began to yell for help as Jaylon attempted to lift his step-brother. However, Anthony was too heavy. Neighbors, Jay and Christina Timson, ran over and eventually were able to cut Anthony free from the belts he had used to hang himself.
That is when Jay, the former paramedic, began CPR and, after a few minutes, was assisted by Karen, a licensed practical nurse. They were performing CPR at a rate of 30 compressions to 2 breaths.
The first 911 call came in at 3:58 p.m., and law enforcement and medical units were dispatched at 4:01 p.m. Deputy Spicher was first to arrive on the scene.
Once he made contact with Timson and Karen, who were performing CPR, he instructed them to cease, which they did. During this time, Ladder 30 arrived on the scene and Deputy Spicher announced that the area was now a crime scene and that only one medical person could proceed, with him to observe Anthony, who Deputy Spicher thought was deceased.
The medical technician who accompanied Deputy Spicher, David Warren, stated in his report that the patient, Anthony, appeared severely cyanotic and unresponsive, and no pulse was detected. He was also limp and no lividity was noted. Once a monitor was attached to Anthony, a rhythm was detected; therefore, other medical personnel were immediately summoned to where Anthony was.
Anthony was transported to The Villages Hospital then air-lifted to UF Shands Hospital in Gainesville, Florida. Anthony remained on life support until on or about November 22, 2014, when he was removed from life support and pronounced dead.
Jaylon told investigators: “He must have struggled or something after he did it or thought about it because he was moving a little bit. So he must have just did it.” Jaylon was asked if Anthony had discussed suicide in the past and he replied “no.”
Jay Timson advised that he and his family lived a short distance down the road from where Anthony lived. He advised that he was in his garage and heard a bunch of dogs barking. He then heard this lady screaming for help saying “my son, my son.” Jay advised that at first he thought it might be a dog attack. Jay advised that he took off down the street running and yelled for his daughter to have her mother call 911.
Jay stated that he observed Anthony hanging in a tree. He was unresponsive and it looked like there were two ropes or belts tied together. He added that he couldn’t see how Anthony got up there. Jay stated that he grabbed Anthony and immediately lifted him up. He then instructed his wife to go and get a knife so he could cut Anthony down. Jay stated that he had been holding Anthony for maybe two or three minutes when Anthony’s mother came out with a knife, at which time he cut Anthony down.
Jay advised that he had been a paramedic before moving to Florida. Therefore, he got a brief medical history on Anthony while checking for a pulse, which he couldn’t find. Jay stated that he checked Anthony’s airway and noticed that he wasn’t as cold as he should have been, adding that he had no idea how long Anthony had been hanging in the tree. Jay advised that he gave Anthony a couple of breaths then thumped on his chest. He then started CPR, beginning with ten (10) compressions and two (2) breaths for maybe five (5) minutes, at which time a woman who stated she was Anthony’s grandmother arrived. Jay advised the grandmother stated she was a nurse; therefore, she took over CPR and completed maybe three (3) rounds of thirty (30) compressions and two (2) breaths when the deputy arrived. The grandmother mentioned is Karen, who is actually the mother of Jolene Waldron’s boyfriend.
Jay told investigators that “he (the deputy) pretty much called it, he told us to back away. I had a pulse when she was doing compressions; when she stopped doing compressions we both thought we felt a slight pulse. But he said back away, so we just backed away.” Jay advised it was about that same time that the paramedics arrived on the scene. Jay then stated that the deputy didn’t say “I officially call him dead,” but said the paramedics were almost there and it’s a crime scene, so back away. Jay added, “he (the deputy) was just doing his job.”
Christina Timson stated that when the boy’s grandmother (Karen) showed up, she (grandmother) started doing compressions while her husband did the breathing. She added that once the deputy showed up, he told her husband to stop and that it was a “Section 7 and told the paramedics they did not need to hurry.” When asked again what the deputy said, she stated he said “no rush, it’s a code 7.”
Karen stated that she is a licensed practical nurse and works the night shift at Promise Hospital, located in The Villages.
She advised that she woke up to her phone ringing at 4:04 p.m. She could hear a woman screaming on the phone while talking to her husband. Karen stated that her husband immediately hung up the phone and stated that they needed to go to Anthony’s house because he had just hung himself.
Karen told investigators the trip took maybe two (2) or three (3) minutes and once they arrived, they observed Jolene (Anthony’s mother) sitting on the ground just rocking back and forth crying. Karen stated that Anthony was in the bushes and the neighbor was performing CPR on him. Karen advised that she took over the compressions and was telling the neighbor when to breathe. Karen described that she was doing “30 to 2.”
Karen advised that Anthony was gasping for breath at the time; he had no life, but he was gasping. Karen said the deputy arrived a short time later. She stated, “the first thing he said was to stop, he told us to stop everything,” at which time she disagreed. Karen added that she should have stood her ground because thirty (30) years of nursing tells her “you don’t stop; you don’t stop CPR until there is someone here to take over for you, and if I could see that man today, I would tell him to his face, don’t you ever tell a nurse to stop.” Karen added that at that time she did feel a pulse; it was not a carotid but a brachial, which she added was a small pulse.
Karen advised that when the paramedic came in, it had been a good two (2) or three (3) minutes that no CPR had been done.
The following is the interview with Deputy Spicher in its entirety:
Deputy Gregory Spicher advised that he arrived at 8675 SE 155th Place, and then proceeded to the wooded area just west of the residence located there. He observed a male subject administering CPR. He also observed a couple of objects, one blue and the other black, then looked for any objects that would have assisted the suicide victim in hanging himself. Deputy Spicher stated that the limb was 10 to 12 feet above the ground; therefore, he could not tell how the subject hung himself due to being cut down upon his arrival.
Deputy Spicher described the hanging victim, a young male subject, as being cyanotic, eyes fixed and dilated. He observed ligature marks on the subject’s neck and there was no sign of life whatsoever. Deputy Spicher stated that he checked for a pulse and that the subject’s hands were cold. Spicher then added “which is normal for shock because everything goes from the hands to the vital organs. Checked his carotid pulse, felt nothing. Before I done that I asked the person to stop CPR because before I was a law enforcement officer I was 15 years a paramedic.” Deputy Spicher stated that he had that type of experience and that about the same time he instructed them to stop CPR, the medics were arriving on the scene. Deputy Spicher advised that the grandmother (Karen) stated “but I felt a pulse,” and he responded “Ma’am, I didn’t feel anything.” The male subject (Jay) administering CPR then told the grandmother, “Ma’am, that could have been me doing the compressions.” Deputy Spicher advised he then told the two (Karen and Jay) that he had to treat this as a crime scene at that point in time; therefore, he escorted them out as the medics were walking up. Deputy Spicher stated that he looked at the medic who was walking up carrying the monitor and told him “I’ve already called it, but I want just one person coming in with the monitor because of a potential crime scene.” Deputy Spicher stated the medic then put the monitor on the male subject. It was flat lined for a few seconds then all of the sudden there was one beep. Deputy Spicher stated that the medic then requested that his Lieutenant come to assist him. Deputy Spicher advised that once the Lieutenant arrived, they looked at the monitor then another beep was observed. The medic advised “this is what we call an agonal heart rate, we have to work it.” At that point other medical personnel came into the area to assist and the male subject was transported to The Villages Hospital. Deputy Spicher advised that he left to go to the hospital also. However, prior to leaving the scene he advised the grandmother and the mother of the subject that they couldn’t find a pulse manually but the monitor showed a pulse; therefore, CPR was started back up and the subject was going to be transported.
Inspector Smith advised Deputy Spicher that the golden rule, taught in all CPR classes, is that once CPR starts, you don’t stop until you are medically relieved or you become exhausted. When asked if he (Spicher) was aware of that and that he had instructed two individuals to stop CPR, Deputy Spicher responded “The only reason I stopped it for that 30 seconds to a minute was to check for a pulse and at that time the medics were coming in. I didn’t want everybody coming in because of crime scene preservation. When I lifted his shirt I could see the pooling and the lividity in his back.”
Inspector Smith then stated to Deputy Spicher, “You transmitted he was Signal 7 (deceased) and for everyone to slow it down. You told these people to cease, the medical people showed up, their actions indicate that he is not deceased. You don’t have the authorization to pronounce someone as dead.” Deputy Spicher responded that he had been told that Florida Statutes say that “we can”; then added “In practice here we declare people Sig 7 all the time without medics coming in.” Inspector Smith then advised that does occur in certain circumstances; however, this incident would be different because no one knew for sure how long the subject had been hanging. Deputy Spicher then advised that the first CAD report stated it was at least 20 minutes; that the mother had left the house for 10 minutes; that she came home and couldn’t find the subject and when she did and the call came, it was now 28 minutes. When Inspector Smith explained that still no one could say how long the subject had been hanging, Deputy Spicher stated, “when I felt him he was cold; I felt no pulses and in my past training and experiences his eyes were fixed and dilated; the petechia eye, he was red, his mouth wide open, absolutely no sign of life. The medics didn’t feel any pulses when they first arrived either.” Inspector Smith then asked Deputy Spicher, “If you are dead, can they bring you back to life?” and he responded, “Yes.”
According to the sheriff’s office, Spicher was hired in October 2005.
Deputy Spicher’s personnel file shows that he has been subject to three (3) other disciplinary actions, but has also received commendations, such as Eagle Eye awards. He was “top producer of the month” 15 times since 2006 and was on the team that apprehended repeat-escapee Yarnell Bagley.
On Wednesday, following an Internal Affairs investigation that found Dereliction of Duty, Spicher was transferred to the Marion County Jail, where he will work as a corrections officer.
Spicher also must successfully complete a CPR class. Additionally, all deputies will be told that they should never stop CPR until they are relieved by a medic or too exhausted to continue.
Internal Affairs Investigator, Leo Smith, concluded: Deputy Spicher was acting in the role of a law enforcement officer at the time of this incident; he had been trained to administer CPR. His years of advanced medical training and experience should have been a benefit in this instance.
CPR training will teach you that you don’t cease CPR once it begins, unless the person administering it is relieved by medical personnel or becomes exhausted. Deputy Spicher made, what he believed at the time, a correct decision when giving the order; however, he lacked the facts to do so. Deputy Spicher did not know that the civilians administering CPR had medical backgrounds or how long the subject had been hanging before he was cut down. Once someone is deceased you can, during a time frame, possibly bring them back to life.
Deputy Gregory Spicher’s actions at the time of his arrival, in as far as his commands to civilians, were not proper as to his role of a law enforcement officer and the Marion County Sheriff’s Office. Therefore, Violation of Operations Directive 1068.04(A) Dereliction of Duty is substantiated.
Anthony’s family wants justice. They do not believe being moved from patrol to the jail is a sufficient punishment for Deputy Spicher.
Carolyn Waldron, mother of Jolene Waldron, said the family is actively seeking an attorney.
“This should have never happened. Anthony might be alive today if this officer had done his job. You never stop trying to save a life no matter what,” Carolyn said.
The family said Anthony never talked about suicide and that he was a happy kid.