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Moore family hires attorney Ben Crump, files civil suit

Ben Crump
NPR Illinois
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Attorney Ben Crump at a Springfield news conference Thursday.

Chanting “Justice for Earl”, the family of Earl Moore Jr., who suffocated after being strapped face down to a stretcher on his way to the hospital, has filed a civil lawsuit against the ambulance company and two emergency service workers. The family has also obtained attorney Ben Crump and his team.

“We want to make sure we have criminal culpability and civil accountability," Crump during a Thursday news conference at the Springfield NAACP headquarters. “We want whole justice.”

Crump has become known for taking on high profile cases. He’s often featured on cable news shows. He is often referred to as “Black America’s attorney general.”

Crump has represented families of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Michael Smith and others in wrongful death lawsuits. He called this case unique because it involves emergency services workers.

The lawsuit filed Thursday names the Lifestar service and two employees, Peter Cadigan and Peggy Finley, both of Springfield. They are each held on one count of first degree murder.

Washington-Moore.jpg
NPR Illinois
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Earl Moore Jr.'s mother, Rose Washington (left) and Springfield NAACP President Teresa Haley

Moore, 35, was Black. He died in December. Police arrived at his home and called for an ambulance when it was clear Moore, who had been detoxing, needed medical assistance.

The county coroner determined the death to be homicide and the two workers, Peggy Finley and Peter Cadigan, have been charged with first degree murder. Finley’s attorney, Scott Hanken, told the State Journal-Register the conduct could be considered negligent, but did not rise to the level of first-degree murder.

Moore’s family, including his siblings, niece and mother, Rose Washington, talked about the pain they’ve gone through.   

“My son was clearly struggling,” Washington said.  “He needed help. He needed emergency medical attention. Instead, these workers treated him like he wasn’t even human.   They tied him down like some kind of animal.”

The ambulance was called to Moore’s home Dec. 18 as he was having a medical episode. Police were also on scene and officers’ body camera footage has been released. One of the team attorneys, Bob Hilliard, said it shows a need for emergency services workers to wear body cams, as well as having them inside ambulances.

“The female paramedic was the one in the back with Earl. Unless her conduct changes 180 degrees during that ride…if she’s consistent with who she was during that time in the house on video…Earl’s last few minutes while he was conscious, what he was hearing from her was not something you want to wish on anybody,” Hilliard said.

He added that while George Floyd, who cried “I can’t breathe” while being held down by a police officer, Moore was suffering, but couldn’t speak.

The county coroner, Jim Allmon, determined Moore’s death to be homicide. Sangamon County State’s Attorney Dan Wright filed the murder charges. He has indicated the decision to charge first degree murder was due to the training and experience of the ambulance workers. He said they should have known their action could lead to Moore’s death.

Crump said he glad to see those actions. But he added, “It should not be applauded with somebody does their job.”

Moore’s mother, Rose Washington, talked about the pain she’s felt losing her son.

 “My son was clearly struggling. He needed help. He needed emergency medical attention,” she said. “Instead, these workers treated him like he wasn’t even human.   They tied him down like some kind of animal.”

“These are health care responders. You would think if anybody was going to be focused on their first objective, to make sure his health is stable, you would think that would be health care professionals,” Crump added.

The legal team includes local attorney Sam Cahnman.

The lawsuit seeks unspecified damages.

The following is body camera footage from Springfield Police.

Officer 1

Officer 2

Officer 3

Results of toxicology report