Brooklyn Park police have launched a criminal investigation into the death of a 41-year-old father with a chronic illness, who was found dead one morning last fall after his ventilator machine stopped working and the nurse assigned to his care allegedly failed to notice.
State investigators found that a registered nurse with Plateau Healthcare LLC provided false documentation concealing the fact that the nurse did not provide any care for a resident during an overnight shift, in violation of a physician's orders. As a result, the nurse failed to detect that the man's ventilator machine was not plugged in as required and had a critically low battery, triggering multiple alarms, according to a state Department of Health investigation released last week.
Police are now investigating the death for possible charges of criminal negligence.
The man who died, Taurus Grantham, 41, was a father of two young children who had struggled since 2016 with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or ALS, a chronic neuromuscular disease popularly known as Lou Gehrig's disease. Because of his illness, Grantham was unable to breathe or move his limbs on his own and required nursing care 24 hours a day.
On Oct. 18, 2017, Grantham was found unresponsive in his bed at about 6:25 a.m., more than seven hours after he was last checked, according to the Department of Health investigation, which was completed last month.
His father, Andrew Grantham of Omaha, Neb., said the family never received an explanation or an apology from representatives of Plateau Healthcare after the death.
"The hurt is so deep," Andrew Grantham said. "They need to put themselves in my shoes, and ask how they would feel if they learned that your son died because a ventilator was unplugged. No one seemed to care about my son's life."
Lack of care 'game-changer'
After the state released its report, which found that the nurse was responsible for neglect, the Brooklyn Park Police Department became so concerned by the findings that it decided last week to launch an investigation into Grantham's death.
Two detectives are now assigned to the case, and they are investigating the death for criminal negligence and other possible charges, said Brooklyn Park Deputy Chief Mark Bruley. The agency would have opened an investigation earlier but the Health Department had sent its completed investigation to the wrong law enforcement agency, he said. It could take several weeks for the investigation to be completed, he added.
"The findings that the employee had some responsibility for the lack of care is a game-changer," Bruley said of the state's report. "If you are a caregiver and you are responsible for someone, and you don't do it appropriately … then you can be culpable for it."
Faisale Boukari, president of Plateau Healthcare, a home care agency with about 100 employees in the Twin Cities metro area, said the nurse who the report said failed to complete the required care and then submitted false records has been dismissed and reported to the Minnesota Board of Nursing for further investigation.
The home care agency also twice brought in a respiratory therapist to go over procedures of ventilator care with staff, and the agency has installed cameras in the common areas of all of the company's homes. Plateau Healthcare has also closed the four-bed facility, at 6264 Sunrise Terrace in Brooklyn Park, where the resident died, Boukari said.
"I am so sorry for the pain and sorrow this incident has caused … to the resident, the resident's family, the entire staff here at Plateau Healthcare — and to the nurse involved in this unfortunate event," Boukari said in a written statement. "We strive to provide the highest quality care to our home care clients and are proud to serve them."
He added that the agency has been cooperating with the Brooklyn Park Police Department in its criminal investigation.
Grantham, the resident who died, was last seen at a clinic about two weeks before his death and was found to be medically stable, according to the state report. A nurse practitioner told investigators that he could survive "no longer than 10 minutes" without his ventilator. It is unknown how long Grantham had been deceased before he was discovered.