Police: Doctor suspect had encounter with man at LA hospital

  1. Police: Doctor suspect had encounter with man at LA hospital

    The Associated Press
    LOS ANGELES -- A former physician trainee suspected in the death of a former patient was caught with the man several months ago in a locked hospital room with blank videotapes, soft restraints and a bottle of baby oil, according to county officials.

    More than two months after that incident, 39-year-old Dr. Warren C. Lemons was arrested in Calexico and later released after he called paramedics to his hotel room to treat a 22-year-old man in respiratory distress. MacArthur Townsend was pronounced dead a short time later.

    Townsend, one of Lemons' former patients at King/Drew Medical Center, was the same man caught in the hospital room with Lemons.

    Lemons told paramedics he had probably overmedicated Townsend on April 14 while practicing respiratory intubation on him at the Calexico hotel, according to documents from the California Medical Board, which has since suspended Lemons' license.

    Lemons, who met Townsend while he was a family medicine trainee at King/Drew from 1999 to 2001, has not been charged with Townsend's death and is not in police custody. He remains a top suspect in the case, police said.

    Calexico police found 140 videotapes, at least some showing nude young men in medical examination rooms, in Lemons' hotel room and car. They also found Townsend's King/Drew medical records.

    County officials on Monday told the Los Angeles Times that Lemons and Townsend were found Feb. 8 in a locked King/Drew hospital room long after Lemons had been cut from King/Drew's residency program.

    County police, who have a station at the hospital, saw Townsend zipping up his pants and found videotaping equipment aimed at a bed, officials said. They also found soft restraints, said Chief Margaret York, who heads the county office of public safety.

    Lemons told the officers that he was a physician at the county-owned hospital and that Townsend was his son. Lemons showed police his identification badge from his 2-year stint as a King/Drew resident.

    Sgt. David Johnson called the nurse in charge, who was unable to determine if Lemons was on staff, according to a memo Johnson filed. The nurse said she was told by the supervisor that Lemons could leave and the matter would be taken care of in the morning, the memo said.

    Neither man was arrested because no crime was believed to have occurred, York said.

    Two days later, Johnson learned from the nurse that Lemons was no longer employed by King/Drew, police said.

    Health department spokesman John Wallace said it is "law enforcement's job, not the health department's" to decide whether to detain suspects. He said the incident was now under review by his department.

    Documents obtained by the Times show Lemons had academic problems before being accepted into the family practice residency at King/Drew in 1999.

    He was forced to repeat the first year of a pediatrics training program at Pitt County Memorial Hospital in Greenville, N.C. Records from Lemons' medical school, Texas A&M University College of Medicine, show he ranked in the lower half of his class of 46 students, with a grade point average of 2.31.

    The Times also reports that at least two other residents at King/Drew complained of Lemons' behavior while he was there.

    County supervisors have called for an inquiry into how Lemons was able to obtain Townsend's private medical file more than two years after he left the residency program. Lemons was kicked out of the program because he did not obtain a medical license within two years as required by the state.

    May 18. 2004 6:30AM

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