Man sues officers who helped save him from drowning
“They saved his life — he did not die,” Chief Edwin C. Roessler Jr. said. “You’re going to sue someone for saving your life?”
By PoliceOne Staff
FAIRFAX, Va. — A man who tried to drown himself is suing the officers and lifeguard who helped rescue him.
The Washington Post reports that 23-year-old Mateusz Fijalkowski is suing the Fairfax officers and a lifeguard who pulled him out of a pool after he tried to drown himself. The officers are accused of not doing enough to stop Fijalkowski, who said he was in the midst of a bipolar episode, from drowning himself.
“The police allowed me to sink before their eyes,” Fijalkowski said. “I’m glad that in the end they realized that they shouldn’t let me drown, but I don’t thank them for letting me die, clinically, before their eyes.”
In 2016, Fijalkowski came to the U.S. from Poland on an international summer job program and worked as an assistant manager at a pool in Fairfax, Va. On his third day of work, Fijalkowski started behaving strangely, arguing with guests, talking to himself and even ripping a girl’s wristband off.
Police were called and tried to talk to Fijalkowski. They even brought a Polish-speaking officer and Fijalkowski’s roommate, both of whom Fijalkowski ignored, according to court records.
Fijalkowski twice threw his cellphone into the shallow end of the pool and retrieved it. When Fijalkowski entered the pool a third time, a bystander recorded him walking slowly into the pool until he was submerged under the eight-foot-deep water.
According to one officer, Fijalkowski grabbed two vents on the bottom of the pool and held himself down. Fijalkowski was underwater for two-and-a-half minutes before Sean Brooks, Fijalkowski’s supervisor and a lifeguard, jumped in and tried to pull him out.
Officers are seen in the video helping Brooks pull Fijalkowski out of the water. CPR was performed on Fijalkowski before medical personnel arrived and revived the man with an electronic defibrillator.
Court documents said police would not allow Brooks to jump in until Fijalkowski stopped moving. An EMS report said Fijalkowski vomited in the pool and suffered cardiac and respiratory arrest.
Fijalkowski said he’s suing because he has more than $100,000 in medical bills from the incident.
Victor Glasberg, Fijalkowski’s attorney, said police are trained to take people in distress into custody and could have stopped Fijalkowski from entering the pool a third time. Glasberg added that officers should have gone in earlier to rescue Fijalkowski.
Fairfax police contend that the officers acted appropriately to protect the lifeguard and themselves from a disturbed person.
“They saved his life — he did not die,” Fairfax County Police Chief Edwin C. Roessler Jr. said. “You’re going to sue someone for saving your life?”
Rosseler added that if officers had gone in earlier, they may have been dragged underwater themselves. The chief said his officers were right to avoid a physical altercation with a man who had been acting violently and erratically.
“There’s no way to Monday-morning-quarterback this stuff,” Roessler said. “Everybody there saved this young man’s life.”