Shot student's medical bill an issue for county

The county may ask UF to help pay the estimated $290,000.

Published: Thursday, April 1, 2010 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, March 31, 2010 at 7:16 p.m.

Alachua County commissioners will consider asking the University of Florida to help pay for the medical bills of a student shot by a university police officer.

Commissioner Cynthia Chestnut said she's asked the county attorney to draft a letter asking for such assistance, which will be considered at Tuesday's commission meeting.

"I don't think it's fair for the taxpayers of Alachua County to bear the total costs of the incident," she said.

Kofi Adu-Brempong, 35, was shot in the face March 2 during an altercation with university police who entered his campus apartment. He's facing charges of aggravated assault on an officer and resisting an officer with violence in the incident. The extent of his injuries meant he was sent to Shands at the University of Florida, rather than the jail infirmary, at a cost estimated to be at least $290,000.

UF spokeswoman Janine Sikes said she couldn't comment on Chestnut's proposal because medical privacy laws prevent the university from discussing Adu-Brempong's treatment.

The shooting destroyed the roof of Adu-Brempong's mouth, severed part of his tongue and destroyed much of his jaw, according to his family. He underwent extensive surgery and currently has his jaw wired shut. He also suffered injuries to his hand and still has a bullet lodged near his spine.

Under state law, county governments have responsibility for paying hospital bills for injuries that inmates sustain during arrest after attempts have been exhausted to recoup costs through medical insurance, the inmates' assets or any financial settlement the inmates have received. The county and Shands have debated previously about the extent of those bills.

The cost of Adu-Brempong's hospital stay was about $240,000 without including the expense of physician fees and surgeries, according to the jail.

In addition, two detention officers were stationed outside his room before his family posted bail Tuesday. They received overtime for the duty at a total cost of about $50,000, according to the jail.

The decision to have two guards rather than just one is based on such factors as whether a patient is combative or part of a high-profile case in which people might try to visit, said Karen Keith, the jail's division manager of support services.

Adu-Brempong's family posted bail out of a concern over a plan to transfer him to the jail infirmary, where they feared his health was at risk. His sister-in-law, Cynthia Agyemang, said Tuesday that she planned to instead move him to a long-term care facility as he faces rehabilitation and more surgeries.

Chestnut said the details of the case suggest that UF should pay for some of the costs that might fall on the county. She cited the fact that a UF officer shot someone who had polio - Adu-Brempong had a childhood case and walks with a cane - and the extent of his injuries.

"I think the situation, personally, could have been handled very differently," she said.

In other news involving the shooting, a representative of the Ghanaian embassy met Wednesday with UF President Bernie Machen. Adu-Brempong is from Ghana.

In addition, a coalition that held an earlier protest of the shooting announced plans for another rally to be held Tuesday at the UF police department.

Contact Nathan Crabbe at 338-3176.

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