Woman arrested at gunpoint during life-threatening stroke as cop thought she was intoxicated

12 February 2024, 09:54 | Updated: 12 February 2024, 10:03

The woman had been suffering a stroke when a cop arrested her on suspicion of driving while intoxicated.
The woman had been suffering a stroke when a cop arrested her on suspicion of driving while intoxicated. Picture: Dubin Law Group

By Jenny Medlicott

A woman is suing a police department after she was handcuffed at gunpoint while suffering a stroke because an officer thought she was intoxicated.

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Nicole McClure, 40, crashed her car while driving due to a stroke before she was ordered out of the vehicle and handcuffed at gunpoint by a Washington police officer.

Ms McClure is now suing Thurston County police for ignoring the symptoms of her stroke after she was arrested.

Dashcam footage taken of the arrest shows the shocking moment officer Jonathan Barnes slams the woman on the hood of his car before interrogating her.

“When’s the last time you used meth? When was the last time you used heroin?” the state trooper demands in the footage.

Ms McClure replies: “I haven't … I don’t. I'm confused. I think I'm tired.”

She was later taken to jail where she was allegedly mocked by staff as she lay on the floor of a cell vomiting and incontinent for more than 24 hours without help.

After finally receiving medical attention, Ms McClure was rushed to hospital for emergency surgery and had to have part of her head removed. She was admitted to hospital for 17 days.

In a statement from her attorneys, Anne Vankirk said: “Nicole recalls being laughed at and told ‘Have another shot’.

“Had Nicole received immediate medical attention, her condition would have been significantly easier to treat and the outcome far less severe.”

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Ms McClure had left work early in March 2022 due to suffering from a headache and dizziness.

Officer Barnes spotted her driving too slowly and veering in and out of her lane while travelling home to Olympia.

Despite trying to pull her over, Ms McClure did not respond and eventually crashed her car into a roundabout.

After crashing the car, the officer pulled out his gun and ordered her to step out of the vehicle.

Ms McClure exited the car with her hands up but was later accused of resisting arrest because she clutched onto her car keys despite Barnes instructing her to let go.

“She's trying to use these keys to stab,” he said.

“She's trying to use these keys as a weapon.”

She was arrested on suspicion of intoxicated driving and felony evading.

Ms McClure was not tested for drugs or alcohol at the scene of the crash but was taken to a nearby hospital by Barnes and tested for the substances there, which came back negative.

While in jail, Ms McClure had repeatedly asked for help and was found in a puddle of her own urine almost 24 hours later, her attorney said.

She was later helped onto a bed in a cell by jail staff when she began “vomiting uncontrollably” and was moved to a second cell and “forcibly changed” out of her clothes.

It was only hours later that the jail’s medical team was notified and advised for her to be taken to hospital immediately, the lawsuit claims.

Pressure had been building inside her brain due to a frontal lobe subdural hematoma.

The delay to her treatment for the stroke means Ms McClure has been left permanently disabled, the lawsuit also claims.

“Nicole is a hardworking young woman who will never be the same again,” Ms Vankirk said.

“Despite the fact that she was observed to be in a car-disabling collision, no medical evaluation was offered to her.

“She suffers from severe traumatic brain injury and remains unable to care for herself or engage with life in meaningful ways.”

A spokesman for Thurston County Prosecuting Attorney's Office said: “While we can't discuss the specifics of any pending litigation, I can confirm that the safety of inmates, staff, and the general public remains a top priority for the Thurston County Corrections Facility.”