Thursday, May 03, 2012

Hancock Co. Coroner Arrested For DUI At Death Investigation Scene

We've grown accustom to reading about police officers getting busted for drunk driving both in and out of uniform, but the arrest of a county coroner at the scene of a death investigation for drunk driving appears to be a first. The Star reports on the arrest of Hancock County Coroner Tamara Vangundy for drunk driving:
Hancock County Coroner Tamara Vangundy was arrested early this morning after showing up apparently intoxicated, police said, at a death investigation in New Palestine.
Shortly before midnight Wednesday, Vangundy drove her own vehicle to a house in the Schildemeier Woods neighborhood near U.S. 52 and Hancock County Road 700 West, said Hancock County Sheriff Mike Shepherd. Deputies noticed she was staggering and generally seemed impaired, he said, and noticed a smell of alcohol. They called Shepherd, who went to the scene.
“We administered an agility test, and she failed that,” Shepherd said. “So we took her to the jail and gave her a Breathalyzer test.”
Vangundy’s alcohol level was .16 percent, Shepherd said — twice the legal limit.
According to the Star, a deputy coroner who was already at the scene when Vangundy arrived handled the death investigation, which appeared to be a suicide. I don't know what Vangundy's professional background is, but I strongly suspect that she is not a forensic pathologist. I don't know what it's going to take for Indiana to move beyond the Byzantine era and go to a medical examiner system that is used in virtually every other state in the country.

UPDATE: As an interesting side note to history, Earl Rose, who served as the Dallas County medical examiner at the time of President John F. Kennedy's assassination in 1963, died yesterday in Iowa City at the age of 85. Rose had sought to perform an autopsy on Kennedy's body as required by Texas law before Washington insiders won out and we, instead, got a badly-botched autopsy by pathologists who had federal agents breathing down their necks during the entire examination. As the NY Times notes in Dr. Rose's obituary:
The autopsy was later performed at Bethesda National Naval Medical Center in Maryland. The pathologists there did not know that a doctor at Parkland Memorial Hospital in Dallas, where the stricken president had been taken, had performed a tracheotomy on Kennedy that obscured a gunshot wound in his neck. Nor did they have access to the clothing the president was wearing.
A forensic panel commissioned by Congress determined in 1978 that the Bethesda doctors had failed to dissect a wound in Kennedy’s upper back and had only probed it with a finger. The same year, pathologists involved in the autopsy admitted that they had been in “hurry up” mode. Conspiracy theorists have questioned whether high-ranking civilian and military officials who were present during the autopsy may have influenced its results.
Dr. Rose said in 1992 that an autopsy performed in Dallas “would have been free of any perceptions of outside influence.”
His confrontation with the president’s party occurred outside Trauma Room 1 at Parkland. Dr. Rose, a physician and lawyer who had become county medical examiner less than six months earlier, informed the Secret Service and other aides traveling with Kennedy that state law required that an autopsy in a murder be performed in the county where the crime had taken place.
He said that it would take no more than 45 minutes, and that the doctors who had treated the president were there to advise. Critical evidence could be gathered at a time when the assassin or assassins were still at large. “You can’t break the chain of evidence,” Dr. Rose was quoted as telling them.
Dr. George Burkley, Kennedy’s physician, reminded Dr. Rose that the country was dealing with the president and said he must waive local laws. At the time, however, there was no federal law expressly addressing assassinations. Any suspect would have been tried in a Texas state court.
But historians have said that Mrs. Kennedy insisted on returning to Washington as soon as possible and that she would not leave without her husband’s body. Vice President Lyndon B. Johnson, who was to be shortly sworn in as the 36th president aboard Air Force One, supported the first lady’s decision.
As Mrs. Kennedy emerged from the trauma room beside a gurney carrying the casket, tension mounted. Roy Kellerman, head of the White House Secret Service detail, squared off against Dr. Rose. Obscenities were shouted. Unconfirmed accounts said Mr. Kellerman had pointed a gun at Dr. Rose. Years later, Dr. Rose said that might have happened but that he was not sure.
“Finally, without saying any more, I simply stood aside,” Dr. Rose said.       
By Dr. Rose agreeing to step aside, Johnson and his co-conspirators within the CIA, including a future president, George H.W. Bush, were able to launch the beginning of the cover-up of their respective roles in the assassination of Kennedy. To read more on what Bush was up to in Texas at the time of the assassination, I highly recommend Russ Baker's "Family of Secrets." One of the first men J. Edgar Hoover spoke to after his terse phone call to Bobby Kennedy notifying him of his brother's death was none other than George H.W. Bush of the CIA, who Hoover briefed on concerns of potential actions by American-backed Cuban mercenaries in the aftermath of Kennedy's assassination. Bush has never publicly acknowledged his role as a CIA agent before becoming its director in the 1970s. As Baker explains in his book, Bush's Zapata Oil company was nothing but a CIA front company, which controlled oil leasing rights in the Caribbean including Cuba before Castro came to power. Baker covers it all in his very chilling, well-researched book.

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