An Errant Rescue

The short life and times of Johnny Jardine, Part 1

Still handcuffed, Johnny was placed face down on a gurney. The handcuffs were not removed. He was cinched with straps, his face was jammed down securely into an airtight gurney pad. As Johnny was loaded into an ambulance, one EMT suggested that the handcuffs be removed and that Johnny be put onto his back. Others said not to bother. The ASU officer approached and asked if the handcuffs should be removed. The EMTs told him to go to the hospital to get his handcuffs. They had no key to release the cuffs; neither did the hospital.

EMTs did not attach a pulse oximeter to Johnny's finger, did not even hook up a cardiac monitor. En route to St. Luke's, the EMTs noticed that Johnny had no pulse and was not breathing. A cardiac monitor was finally employed, and it confirmed that Johnny had no pulse, the suit states.

Three EMTs turned Johnny over to try to resuscitate him. But his "cuffed hands remained pinned beneath his back, forcing his body into an awkward and unstable position, and rendering CPR efforts ineffective," the complaint alleges.

Johnny Jardine in his bowling shirt, shortly before his death. "He loved bowling," his mother says.
Johnny Jardine in his bowling shirt, shortly before his death. "He loved bowling," his mother says.
John Jardine III and his wife, Debbie, with their grandson, Joey.
John Jardine III and his wife, Debbie, with their grandson, Joey.

The autopsy report says nothing about a heart attack. The medical examiner determined that Johnny died from seizure disorder with delirium, coronary artery disease, obesity and positional restraint. Johnny had never used alcohol or illicit drugs. The opiate found in his system was codeine, from cough medicine.

Harding Cure, a lawyer defending Tempe and its Fire Department EMTs, calls the case "a tragedy" -- but one in which the EMTs did nothing wrong. He complains that the emergency personnel are "outrageously and scandalously . . . being cast as storm troopers."

"It's very doubtful that anything these firefighters did had any effect on this young man's life," Cure says. "I really feel sorry for them [Jardines]. The City of Tempe Fire Department and each one of these firefighters feel terrible about what happened. They were just trying to help him."

Cure says that Johnny had a history of violent behavior during seizures, and that that necessitated the steps the firefighters took.

"There have been multiple incidents where he has injured members of his family," Cure says. "Which is not to cast the fault or aspersion on this young man. He acted violently to uniformed people and to people in authority. They attempted to maintain his own safety and theirs and the bystanders."

The Jardines acknowledge that their son was charged with resisting arrest and aggravated assault on a police officer while he lived in Florida. But they hasten to note that it stemmed from a misunderstanding and that a jury acquitted Johnny after deliberating less than a half-hour. Moreover, they say, Johnny won a subsequent civil suit against the officers, and was awarded $30,000. They say he has never hurt any members of the family.

"There's lots of records that state otherwise," Cure says.

Officials from the other agencies named as defendants did not return calls seeking comment.


John Brooking Jardine IV was born on September 1, 1961, in Muskegon, Michigan. His parents, John III and Debbie, were young when they wed. December 27 marked their 40th anniversary.

Their memories of Johnny are bittersweet -- unfathomable heartache from his tribulations, but immense pride at his tenacity and sweet disposition. He was intelligent and caring, they say. He had a near photographic memory, read avidly and was a whiz at current events and geography. He was dignified. People who took the trouble to get to know Johnny were invariably amazed at his acuity and depth.

"I'd never trade him for a so-called normal child," Debbie says. "He had big dreams."

Johnny was never normal after the day his mother took him and his sister to a friend's to do laundry. Johnny was 3. When they got out of the car, Johnny told his mother he wanted to play on the slide. The friend had a swing set, and Debbie inferred that's where Johnny intended to go. But Debbie couldn't find him in the yard. She checked at the nearby neighborhood grocery store, but nobody there had seen him.

"I looked across the street and saw a turquoise slide. I rushed over there. As I got closer, I could see the outline of a swimming pool in the ground. He was floating face down in the six-foot end of the pool like a little rag doll in a snow suit," Debbie recalls.

The frigid water undoubtedly saved Johnny's life. He was unconscious for 24 hours. Then he woke up and stared catatonically at the ceiling. "When he finally started talking, all he would say is, 'Mommy, Mommy, cold, cold water,'" Debbie says.

Johnny seemed to be recovering. But as Debbie drove him home from the hospital, the tot stood up in the back seat of the car and stared blankly. He was unresponsive. She turned around and drove back. Johnny finally became responsive, but he couldn't walk.

"They gave me a bottle of red medicine -- it was Phenobarbital -- and sent us home," Debbie says.

Johnny's suffered these small seizures with great frequency, and he was soon diagnosed with right temporal lobe epilepsy. In addition to the seizures, Johnny became disruptive and hyperactive. Little wonder. Each day, he was ingesting 75 milligrams of Dexedrine, a stimulant, and 10 teaspoons of Phenobarbital, a depressant. The Jardines searched frantically for someone who could help their stricken child.

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