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Charges reduced for Florida paramedic who flung cancer patient off gurney

By Doug G. Ware

BREVARD COUNTY, Fla., June 13 (UPI) -- A former Florida paramedic who was fired in March for tossing a cancer patient off a medical gurney no longer faces a felony in the case, officials said Friday.

Paramedic Kenneth Hallenbeck, 35, tossed the patient onto an emergency room floor in February -- reportedly because 49-year-old patient James Slater wouldn't get off the gurney and into a wheelchair.

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Slater said there were no beds available at the Rockledge, Fla., hospital so he decided to stay lying on the gurney. After a verbal altercation, he said, Hellenbeck lost his temper and flung him off the gurney and onto the floor.

"He started screaming and then grabbed the gurney and picked it up and threw me on the floor," Slater said in a report by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. "That's when the guy behind the counter said, 'You need to go call your boss, I have to call the police department.'"

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Hallenbeck was fired from his job as a Brevard County Fire and Rescue paramedic in March, after serving with the agency for 11 years.

Friday, the Florida State Attorney's Office released video of the incident.

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Hallenbeck was initially charged with felony abuse of the elderly or disabled, but the charge was downgraded to culpable negligence, a misdemeanor. The State Attorney's Office said the charge was reduced because Slater's medical condition doesn't necessarily classify him as a 'disabled adult' -- in which case, a felony charge isn't supportable.

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"Because of this uncertainty, litigation of this matter would likely have prolonged disposition of the case beyond the victim's life expectancy and subjected him to stress that could have aggravated his condition," Assistant Florida State Attorney Gary Beatty said. "The misdemeanor charge facilitates a quick resolution of the case that will ensure Mr. Hallenbeck surrenders his paramedics licenses and assures he will not be able to work as a paramedic in the future."

Hallenbeck, who is scheduled for a court appearance later this month, has not yet commented on the case.

Slater said he has retained an attorney and the Florida chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union said it is looking into the matter.

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