Calif. firefighter disciplined, not fired, over social post claiming he ‘killed’ obese patients
"I am not willing to give our health for him,” Sacramento Firefighter Timothy John Keyes wrote on Facebook, according to a disciplinary letter
By Theresa Clift
The Sacramento Bee
SACRAMENTO, Calif. — A Sacramento firefighter in 2020 posted to Facebook that he has “killed” people by refusing to lift them when they are overweight. He remains a firefighter for the Sacramento Fire Department.
The Facebook post by Timothy John Keyes resulted in a five-shift unpaid suspension, according to a disciplinary letter The Sacramento Bee obtained from a California Public Records Act request. His annual compensation is $125,684.
“I have killed more people in this way than in any other: Presented with a person far too heavy to lift safely, a person dying of any overworked heart (congestive heart failure) and KNOWING ‘better,’ I will opt to NOT have my crew lift him,” Keyes wrote on Facebook, according to the March 10, 2021, disciplinary letter.
Keyes’s post also said lifting heavy individuals risks minor or significant injury to a paramedic, so Keyes has the person suffering a medical event walk a short distance, possibly down stairs, to the gurney.
He acknowledged that having the person walk rather than be carried can prove fatal.
“The heart, already overtaxed while sitting, leading to the 911 call du jour, cannot support these steps,” he wrote.
Keyes wrote he has been disappointed in medics he has trained who “fail to understand why” he tells his crew not to lift the patient when the patient died trying to walk.
“I am not willing to give our health for him. He has asked for this, DEMANDED it for decades! Why should we ruin a loved one’s back for him to keep him alive a bit longer? He will still die, sooner or later. Why give me or my Brother’s back for him when he never bothered to care for himself? I prefer to let him die today if necessary.”
When investigators asked Keyes about the post, he confirmed he had written it, the letter states.
Keyes did not immediately respond to an email seeking comment, but he did talk to investigators about his post.
“I said something I shouldn’t have said, and I wish I hadn’t. I tried to take it back. It was too late,” Keyes told investigators, the letter states. “I had already said it ... I messed up.”
The city disciplined Keyes with a 240-hour suspension, but allowed him to use vacation time to cover half of it. He was suspended for five shifts, totaling 120 hours, in March and April 2021.
Keyes violated the city’s Equal Employment Opportunity Policy when he engaged in inappropriate conduct based on gender/sex and medical condition, the letter states.
The city’s Equal Employment Opportunity Policy is in place to ensure that employees’ work environments are free from harassment and discrimination. The policy outlines various classifications that are protected, such as disability, gender, sex and medical condition.
When asked about this disciplinary issue, city spokesman Tim Swanson said, “The City of Sacramento does not comment on individual personnel matters, but it’s worth noting that the City and the Sacramento County Emergency Medical Services Agency (SCEMSA) require Firefighters/Paramedics or EMTs to treat all patients with the required standard of care, regardless of gender, weight, or any other distinguishing characteristic.”
Sexual post also on Facebook
Investigators also found another “offensive” post on Keyes’ Facebook — a photo depicting a female providing first aid to a male, the letter states. It read, “CPR INSTRUCTIONS: CHECK TO SEE IF NIPPLES ARE HARD if not rub forehead until proper nipple tension is achieved; KISS SENSUALLY the victim is unconscious. Now’s your chance!”
The post, included in the reason for the suspension, was another violation of the city’s EEO policy, the letter states. When investigators asked Keyes why he posted that photo, he said “because it was ridiculous,” the letter states.
During the interviews in September 2020, Keyes acknowledged his Facebook identified him as a fire department employee, and included photos posted in his uniform. He said he could have more than 100 Facebook friends who also work for the city.
“These posts reflect negatively on the Fire Department and the city,” the letter states. “Your position as a firefighter/paramedic places you in a position of public trust and you are held to a higher standard than most other public employees. Publicly acknowledging that you have killed and will not treat fat people and that you view females as sexual objects violates that public trust and brings discredit to the city.”
Keyes had previously received a written reprimand in July 2020 for allowing his “advanced cardiac life support” certification to lapse, the letter states.
My lowest moment as a paramedic
I still regret a euphoric comment to my partner after lifting a morbidly obese patient
The city has given unpaid suspensions to other firefighters in recent years. In July 2019 a group of Sacramento firefighters spray painted the inside of a city water tank, causing “floating debris” and damage that cost taxpayers over $65,000. As punishment, two of them received a two-day unpaid suspension. Last year, firefighter Rocco Davalos was given an unpaid two-day suspension in August after he used a racial slur during a dinner at a fire station, a disciplinary letter states.