Al Copeland has won a $1.3 million settlement after the Boston police arrested him while he was having a stroke back in 2019. The police claimed to have smelled alcohol on Copeland, but he doesn’t drink.
Copeland later said that he’d pulled over after feeling nauseous. The police found him slumped over his steering wheel inside his car. Assuming he was drunk, they arrested him instead of calling an ambulance.
Once at the police station, Copeland couldn’t stand and was left alone in a holding cell where he fell and hit his head. The police did not try to help him and wrote in the police report that they’d put him in the cell to sleep it off. The 62-year-old began to vomit five hours later, and the police finally called an ambulance.
His wife, Valerie, said she thought the police officers assumed her husband was drunk because he’s Black.
“Why they didn’t assume he was sick? I can only and strongly believe it’s because he’s a Black male,” she said. “To see how uncaring they were. It is unfortunately — it should be shocking, but it’s not.”
Copeland was taken to the Tufts Medical Center, but the disgraceful hospital staff also assumed he was drunk. For seven more hours, he was left unattended in the emergency room. After his wife was able to find her husband, it was only then that doctors realized that he wasn’t drunk. He had suffered from a stroke.
Doctors later confirmed that Copland had no drugs or alcohol in his system. The excessive neglect he suffered by the Boston police and hospital staff resulted in him not being treated for more than 12 hours after his stroke. Copeland spent weeks in the hospital and then a rehab center.
Copeland said he woke up two months after the incident with no idea what had happened. He still has trouble walking and tasting his food. He also had to leave his job as a result.
“I heard they treated you like you was a drunk on the street,” he remembered. “That’s what I heard, and it pissed me off. Immediately, I went to ‘All these white addicts all over nodding all over the place, they treat me like I’m a drunk on the street.'”
Neither the city nor Boston Police Department has apologized to him for their hideous treatment, and no officers involved have been reprimanded for their failure to protect and serve. Staff at the hospital did apologize to the Copelands.