Two Oklaloosa County paramedics facing charges in "selfie" competition using patients
The Okaloosa County Sheriff's Office has arrested a former paramedic and, and another one turned himself in after warrants were issued for his arrest regarding a "selfie" war using patients in ambulances, some of whom were unconscious.
Former Okaloosa County Emergency Medical Services paramedic Kayla Renee Dubois, 24, of Navarre, is charged with two felonies. She was arrested Thursday in Santa Rosa County.
Christopher Wimmer, 33, of Crestview, is facing seven felonies and a misdemeanor battery charge. He turned himself in to police in Crestview Thursday afternoon.
Investigators say the two suspects used their cell phones to take selfies and videos with patients inside ambulances.
"The patients were intubated sedated and other wise unconscious. Some were over the line and made to humiliate the patients," Okaloosa County Sheriff Larry Ashley said.
In one instance, Wimmer is alleged to have held open the eyelid of a sedated patient for a selfie. Investigators say he also posed with an elderly woman with her breast exposed.
"It was a sick juvenile game, I don't know any other way to describe it," said Sheriff Ashley. "It was a game of who can be the most vile, who can I get a picture with, it's humiliating."
OSCO says a total of 41 patients were initially identified. Two of those have died and three appear consensual. Of the remaining patients, 19 are female, 17 are male.
OSCO says one of the victims was an Okaloosa County Sheriff's Deputy.
"This has more to do with an invasion of privacy and respect than anything," said Ashley.
All of the victims range in age from 24 to 86. Five of the patients are homeless.
Officials said most of the victims have been notified and it was a complete violation of the HIPAA law.
"The victims that we identified were a angry," said Ashley. "They were frustrated, they were hurt and their biggest fear were that these things made their way to social media."
OSCO says some of the pics were shared by phone with other EMS and non-EMS personnel. Investigators do say that overall, a very small number of EMS personnel were sent the images and videos by Wimmer and Dubois.
The two-month long investigation was launched May 13, 2016, after a public safety official in Okaloosa County learned of the allegations from three other EMS employees a week earlier. An internal investigation was started, followed by a criminal investigation. That investigation, according to OCSO revealed "the defendants exchanged texts challenging each other to produce more selfies and to 'step up' their game."
Dubois was fired on May 20, 2016, and Wimmer resigned the same day.
John Hofstad, an Okaloosa County Administrator says they don't believe this is an ongoing issue.
"There's 130 personnel in EMS and 125 of those have done an outstanding job," said Hofstad.
County official say since the incident all personal cell phones have been banned from ambulances.
They also say each EMT is provided a work cell phone and the option to record video and take pictures on all of the phones has been disabled.