Gay man’s fatal overdose is latest controversy for Dallas’ 911 call center

Posted on 30 Nov 2012 at 8:44pm

Matthew Sanchez, left, and his brother Samuel Sanchez.

A gay Dallas man died from a Xanax overdose earlier this month after emergency crews failed to respond to a 911 call from his apartment because of a miscommunication, the Dallas Morning News (subscription required) reported Friday. Matthew Sanchez, 20, the younger brother of gay activist Samuel Sanchez, died Nov. 16 at the apartment the two shared in Far North Dallas. Like Samuel Sanchez, Matthew Sanchez was gay.

The Morning News reports that Matthew Sanchez had been popping Xanax pills for hours when he collapsed on the floor of the apartment in the early morning hours of Nov. 16. Matthew Sanchez’s friend, Samuel Kim, called 911 from Sanchez’s phone before leaving the scene. Samuel Sanchez was not home at the time.

Dallas Fire-Rescue crews had responded to another, reportedly similar 911 call from the same apartment complex 11 minutes earlier. So the 911 dispatcher contacted paramedics in the ambulance that was transporting the first patient, to find out whether the second phone number also belonged to him. The patient erroneously said that it did, so the dispatcher told police officers to stop responding to the second call, from Sanchez. who was found dead several hours later by his mother.

Sanchez’s death is one of three high-profile incidents this year involving apparent mistakes by Dallas’ 911 call center, and Samuel Sanchez told The DMN that his family wants justice.

“My baby brother’s dead because of their mistake,” he said. “How many dead bodies does a city need before it will change?”

A Dallas Fire-Rescue official claims the department followed proper procedure by confirming that the second phone number also belonged to the first patient, even though it didn’t. But it’s hard to believe that proper procedure is asking someone who’s in an ambulance — possibly because they just overdosed on drugs themselves — whether a phone number belongs to them.

Our hearts go out to Samuel Sanchez, who’s been active in the Human Rights Campaign’s DFW Federal Club, and his family. The Sanchezes are from Harlingen, and Samuel said his brother, a member of the bear community, had found the ability to be himself since moving to Dallas to live with him a few years ago after they lost another brother in a car wreck in South Texas.

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