New information on response timeline raises even more questions
■ Melissa Diaz Hernandez / Editor
The Valley Chronicle has repeatedly reported on the circumstances of a February 2016 death at a local massage parlor that was suspected of human trafficking. A retired employee of the Metropolitan Water District (MWD) died on scene in a massage parlor that advertised on backpage.com, a known sex-trafficking website.
The Valley Chronicle has requested public documents from many agencies, including the Hemet Police Department (HPD), MWD, Eastern Municipal Water District (EMWD), Riverside County Coroner’s office, Hemet Fire Department (HFD) and American Medical Response (AMR). While HPD refused to provide anything except the deceased man’s name and age, HFD ultimately responded with an incident report, and the Coroner’s office provided a redacted report. The newspaper requested records from MWD and EMWD several times before we received a response regarding the deceased’s former employment.
When the Chronicle requested the incident report via phone call to AMR, we were told that AMR was a private company and therefore not subject to the California Public Records Act (CPRA), so no additional information would be provided. However, when we ran the updated story, we included a telltale piece of information that got AMR’s attention. The Hemet Fire Department incident report stated that AMR’s response time to the Ai Spa was 33 minutes. “Not true,” said the company, and it wanted to correct the record.
According to the company, on Feb. 4, 2016, AMR was contacted by dispatch at 2:10:27 p.m. The first keystroke was recorded by AMR at 2:10:41 p.m. and an AMR unit was assigned at 2:11:03 p.m., less than one minute after AMR answered the call.
The initial unit assigned to the Ai Spa at 301 E. Florida Ave. was rerouted approximately one and a half minutes into the call at 2:12:31 p.m. because another ambulance was able to arrive sooner, according to an AMR representative. The ambulance arrived on scene at 2:19:25 p.m., giving AMR a response time of just under nine minutes, not the 33 minutes and four seconds recorded by HFD. According to HFD report, AMR arrived at 2:43:24 p.m.
We asked Hemet Fire Chief Scott Brown about the discrepancy between the two recorded response times. “It was an error on how it was recorded,” said Brown. “HFD and AMR were on-scene — HFD pronounced the patient following established protocol; I did speak to the captain who confirmed the same,” he said. “It would not have altered the outcome.” AMR told The Valley Chronicle that its ambulance was on the scene for 55 minutes and the total call time was 1 hour 3 minutes and 35 seconds. Its incident report backs up their claim. However, the fire incident report recorded AMR’s release from the scene less than a minute after the fire department’s reported AMR arrival time at 2:43:44 p.m.
Communications between AMR dispatch and the responding unit, recorded in the incident detail report, stated that at 3:03:57 p.m. AMR was “safe on-scene.” The communication was in response to a “safety check” message sent at 2:52:57 p.m.
Due to the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA), The Valley Chronicle is unable to obtain any documentation from Riverside County EMS Agency (REMSA) other than what was provided by AMR. Obtaining any further information from REMSA would require a subpoena, unless a family member retrieved it and then provided the documentation.
After multiple attempts by the Chronicle to obtain the police report from the Hemet Police Department — which have all been rebuffed–the newspaper is at a loss as to why the information is still being withheld more than a year and a half later. Learning that there were discrepancies in the reporting just raises further questions. What happened that day? The citizens of Hemet — and the victim’s family — deserve to know.