Security guard suspended following patient death at VCU Medical Center

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RICHMOND, Va. -- The company that employs a security guard involved in an incident that resulted in the death of a patient at VCU Medical Center released a statement one week after the fatal encounter.

"We are devastated by the accident that occurred at VCU Ambulatory Care," the statement from Richmond-based security firm LEW & Associates began. "The security guard involved has been suspended pending the results of the police investigation, and we are cooperating fully with the police as they conclude their investigation. Our hearts and prayers go out to the family of Mr. Whitaker."

Phillip Whitaker, Jr., 64, died Sunday, two days after the encounter with the yet-to-be identified security guard. Police said charges were expected to be filed against the security guard once the investigation was completed.

Joana Suarez, who did not actually see the altercation, said she saw Whitaker, Jr. lying on the pharmacy floor.

“I just remember hearing the loud thump, it was so loud,” Suarez said.

Suarez said she was waiting in line to pick up a prescription last Friday afternoon when she heard Whitaker’s name called over the loud speaker.

“They called his name said come pick up your medicine, come wait at the back of the line,” Suarez recalled.

She said she did not see what happened next, but talked to others in line who did. Whitaker's family said this was the second time he was called back up, because he needed to correct an issue with his prescription.

“He [a witness] said, ‘Oh, Philip didn’t want to wait at the back of the line, and he told the guard and there was a problem there and that’s where the guard tackled him down,'” Suarez said. “He should have still been alive.”

When Suarez saw Whitaker on the floor, she said he was unresponsive and unconscious.

“The guard was standing right beside him and he seemed really agitated,” she said. “His face kind of angry in a way.”

Suarez said the guard was not coming to Whitaker’s aid.

“He was just standing beside him. Everyone else was coming to Philip’s aid but he was not,” Suarez said.

The incident was captured on surveillance video inside the pharmacy. Police asked anyone who may have witnessed the assault to call investigators at 804-646-0400.

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