Before Jameek Lowery left a New Jersey police station and boarded an ambulance early Saturday morning, he felt paranoid and agitated, fearful that police were trying to kill him.
By the time the ambulance arrived at the hospital minutes later, he was unresponsive, Passaic County Prosecutor’s Office said.
Lowery, 27, died early Monday at the hospital in Paterson and questions about what happened to him have sparked protests in the city and are now the focus of a prosecutor’s investigation.
On Thursday, several officials and family members who had interacted with Lowery were informed that he had meningitis, according to Kathleen Long, chief of staff for Paterson Mayor Andre Sayegh.
Mayor Sayegh had met Lowery at an unrelated business opening on December 29, so he was given antibiotics as a precaution on Thursday, the mayor said. First responders and others in contact with Lowery were also told to go to St. Joseph’s University Medical Center for antibiotic treatment as a precaution, the mayor said.
Bacterial meningitis can be spread through coughing or saliva, the New Jersey Department of Health said in a statement, saying that an unnamed person who died Monday had the disease. Common symptoms of meningitis include fever, headache, and stiff neck, and there are often additional symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, sensitivity to light, and confusion, the agency said.
The prosecutor’s office, citing initial reports and information, said that police used physical force and compliance holds to secure Lowery in the ambulance. Hospital records indicate no acute trauma, the prosecutor’s office said.
In the wake of Lowery’s death, protests at Paterson City Hall on Tuesday evening escalated into chaos, and police used mace to disperse the crowds, according to CNN affiliate WPIX. In addition, several members of Lowery’s family spoke out at a city council meeting to call for an investigation, Long said.
“There’s gonna be justice coming,” Lowery’s mother, Patrice King said, according to WPIX. “I’m gonna get justice before I leave this world. If it kills me, I’m gonna get justice.”
Facebook Live video shows police interaction
Prior to the ambulance ride, Lowery posted two Facebook Live videos from the police headquarters in which he claimed that the police were trying to kill him. “I’m just paranoid. I’m not touching nobody,” he says.
Throughout the video, two officers stand a distance away, ask him to relax and call for an ambulance.
“There’s somebody over there trying to kill me,” he says in the video. “Please don’t kill me officers.”
In a second video, he repeatedly asks for water, but the officers say they are not allowed to give it to him, even as he appears sweaty and foam forms at the corners of his mouth.
The incident began early Saturday morning at about 2:45 a.m. when a man believed to be Lowery called 911 and said he had taken Ecstasy and was paranoid, the prosecutor’s office said.
Ecstasy, also known as MDMA, is a synthetic drug that acts as a stimulant and hallucinogen, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse.
Lowery was transported to a local hospital in an ambulance, but left after becoming erratic, the prosecutor’s office said. About an hour after the first call, a man thought to be Lowery called 911 again to report that people were trying to kill him, the prosecutor’s office said.
Minutes later, Lowery entered the Paterson Police Department headquarters and appeared agitated – the same incident captured on the Facebook Live video, prosecutors said.
Paterson Police asked the Paterson Fire Department to respond to the scene, and Lowery was then transported in a Fire Department ambulance to a local area hospital. The mayor’s office said that Lowery walked to the ambulance and that the ambulance ride to St. Joseph’s University Medical Center lasted 3 minutes and 11 seconds.
The Passaic County Prosecutor’s Office said in a statement that it is investigating the circumstances of Lowery’s death. The cause and manner of his death will be determined by the New Jersey Regional Medical Examiner’s Office. Prosecutors are also awaiting the results of toxicology and autopsy reports.
“I completely support a full investigation into Saturday evening’s events,” Mayor Sayegh said in a statement. “In the meantime, I have expressed my condolences to the family of Mr. Lowery, who are suffering during this difficult time.”
Paterson Police did not respond to a request for comment.
Pamela Garretson, spokeswoman for St Joseph’s University Medical Center, said that they could not comment on the medical care given to Lowery because of patient privacy laws. “We extend our heartfelt condolences to the family on their loss,” she said.