Mateusz Fijalkowski a manager at a Fairfax County, Virginia residence and pool who tried drowning himself sues police and a lifeguard after saving his life.
A man who tried drowning himself at a Virginia pool during a ‘bipolar’ episode is suing the police officers and a lifeguard who saved his life.
In his lawsuit, 24 year old Polish emigre, Mateusz Fijalkowski claims officers from the Fairfax County Police Department waited too long to rescue him after suffering significant respiratory and cardiac arrest that has now left him with a $100K medical bill.
Lawyers for the man claim responding officers left him underwater for more than two minutes and stopped a lifeguard from immediately jumping in the pool to save him.
Fijalkowski, who does not know how to swim, was hired to work as an assistant manager for the pool at Riverside Apartments in May 2016.
He spoke little English at the time and had come to America from Poland through an international summer job program reported the Washington Post.
Fijalkowski had never had a mental episode in his life. But come his third day at the job, the otherwise healthy man experienced an inexplicable episode.
He began talking to himself in Polish and arguing with pool guests. A lifeguard called the police after he ripped off one girl’s wristband and refused to let her swim.
As eight officers arrived on the scene, Fijalkowski repeatedly blew his whistle, shouted ‘I am the lifeguard’, and started to pray in Polish.
Authorities had everyone leave the area and called in a Polish-speaking officer as well as Fijalkowski’s roommate, who could also speak Polish.
But he continued to ignore officers demands, throwing his cell phone into the pool twice and climbing the lifeguard tower as he continued to shout.
The third time he entered the pool, Fijalkowski walked into the deep end and grabbed two vents on the bottom of the pool to hold himself down, according to the lawsuit.
Mateusz Fijalkowski: Did police risk losing their own life by immediately jumping in and saving the erratic man’s life?
A video filmed (see above) by a bystander shows that Fijalkowski was in the water for two and a half minutes.
Although the pool had been secured by the officers, and Mateusz was in their sole control, ‘the officers did nothing to stop him from reentering the water,’ Fijalkowski’s attorney Victor Glasberg told the dailymail.
Video footage captured officers performing CPR on Fijalkowski as more emergency medical technicians arrive on the scene.
Fijalkowski who by then had suffered cardiac and respiratory arrest had to be revived with an electronic defibrillator. When the lifeguard did pull him out, according to his lawsuit, Fijalkowski had stopped breathing and had no pulse.
‘His face was purple. His heart had stopped beating and he had stopped breathing,’ Glasberg said.
The pool company has alleged that police would not let Brooks jump in until Fijalkowski ‘had stopped moving’.
Several officers also said in their reports that they entered the pool when they realized he was still.
A hospital report states that officers told doctors that Fijalkowski had only been underwater for 30 to 60 seconds.
The incident left Fijalkowski with $100,000 in medical bills after spending more than a week recovering at Fairfax Inova’s Heart and Vascular Institute.
He was then placed in a psychiatric unit for six days. Fijalkowski has since moved back to Poland and said has not had another episode.
To what degree are police trained to rescue individuals in distress?
‘The police allowed me to sink before their eyes,’ Fijalkowski told the Washington Post.
‘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.’
Fairfax County Police Chief Edwin Roessler Jr defended his officers, claiming they could have gotten dragged underwater themselves if they went in earlier.
‘When someone’s having a mental episode, the last thing you want to do is go hands on,’ he said. ‘You use time on your side to let the episode subside.’
Fijalkowski’s attorney has argued to the contrary, insisting police are trained to take people in distress into custody. The lawyer maintains cops could have stopped Fijalkowski from going into the pool the third time. Once he did go in and stayed underwater so long, they should have rescued him or allowed the lifeguard to do so insisted the lawyer.
Reiterated the police chief ‘They saved his life – he did not die. You’re going to sue someone for saving your life?’
‘There’s no way to Monday-morning-quarterback this stuff,’ Roessler said. ‘Everybody there saved this young man’s life.’