A transit officer is found dead in a Gary, Ind., church hours after he called 911 for help.
Now his family wants to know if his death could have been prevented.
“When he made the call, you respond to people. That’s all. Just respond, do what you’re supposed to be doing,” said wife Sarah Sanders.
Sanders is mourning the loss of her husband. The father of her four children. 44-year-old Burt Sanders, died of a heart attack early Saturday morning, but not before calling 911 at around 2 a.m.
Paramedics responded to Gary’s Church of God in Christ where Burt Sanders was spending the night, but when they found the doors locked, they left. It was Sanders’ niece who found him seven hours later inside the sanctuary sitting on the ground against a row of chairs.
“I could see him sitting on the floor because the only light that was shining was his phone, and it was shining against his leg,” niece Carletha Sutton said.
Now, his heartbroken family questions whether Sanders could have been saved. Asking why emergency responders did not force the church’s doors open to get to him.
“They told him when they get there to have the door open. His response to them was that he could not open the door. The pain was too severe,” said Bishop Benjamin Sanders.
Burt Sanders was a former Gary police officer. He was, until his death, working two jobs – one as a South Shore Line police officer, the other as a security guard. Recent health issues, including a hospitalization for pneumonia a week prior, are what led him to spend the night at the church where his father is the bishop.
“He told me, when I get out I made a promise to God. I got to get to church just to pray,” Sarah Sanders said.
Protocols for emergency responders dictate that paramedics not leave the scene without direction from a dispatcher who must call for fire or police to determine if forced entry is required. An internal investigation is now being conducted at both Lake County’s 911 dispatch center and Prompt Ambulance to determine whether those protocols were indeed followed.