Widow of man who died while in Fort Pierce police custody getting impatient for answers

FORT PIERCE, Fla. - The Medical Examiner’s Office in Fort Pierce is still working to determine the cause of death for Kim Lee, who died while in the custody of a local police department.

The Indiantown man died while in the custody of the Fort Pierce Police Department shortly after he was medically discharged from Lawnwood Regional Medical Center.

It could take at least four more weeks for the Medical Examiner to determine why Lee died.

Meanwhile, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement is continuing its own investigation to establish whether or not anything criminal occurred leading up to Lee’s death.

Lee’s widow, Lakisha Lee, says she is getting impatient waiting for answers that are important to her family, including Lee’s 11 children.

“My kids are asking me questions that I can’t even answer,” Lee said.

She’s worried his medical needs for his Sickle Cell Anemia were ignored during the arrest process. She hopes the investigation will show whether or not that was the case.

Police have confirmed that in late October, they were called to Lawnwood to investigate complaints by a member of the hospital staff. The staff member wanted to press charges for battery and have Lee arrested.

Lee was medically cleared and arrested, then placed into the back of a patrol car. While the officer making the arrest filled out paper work nearby, the officer noticed Lee went into medical distress while in the car. He was readmitted to the hospital, and according to family, put on life support immediately. 

He died Oct. 31, only two days later, according to police.

“I have a lot of questions that no one is answering,” Lakisha said. "I would like to know how he ended up in the back of the police car. He couldn’t walk. I want to know if his oxygen was taken off of him. He needed it,” Lakisha said.

WPTV Legal Analyst Michelle Suskauer also expects the investigation to answer specific questions regarding the hospital's actions.

“Did they have an obligation to tell law enforcement ‘this is the needs of this particular patient? And although he’s in custody with you, you still have to take care of those needs.”

Lakisha was used to seeing her husband in the hospital.

“Every time he went to the hospital, we always assumed he’d come home,” Lakisha said.

This time was no different.

Days before his death, she said she did not feel he was strong enough to be medically discharged, though she said Kim Lee told her he wanted to be home.

Now, she wants Lawnwood Regional Medical Center staff to tell her how they made the decision to discharge him.

Lawnwood Regional Medical Center is not issuing a statement about the case at this time.

Hospital staff has also not confirmed if the staff member involved in the complaint is still working during the pending investigation.

“Until we find out exactly what happened, I don’t think they should be back at work,” Lakisha said.

The officer involved in the arrest, Candice Kernan-Fullen, has been temporarily reassigned pending the outcome of an investigation.

FLDE also issued the following comment Tuesday:

“When FDLE is asked to investigate an in-custody death, our role is to see if a crime has been committed. Once our investigation has been completed, we pass our findings to the State Attorney’s Office, and they make the final determination about whether charges should be filed,” said Jeremy Burns, Communications Coordinator for the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.

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