ROANOKE, Va. -- A patient who punched a paramedic during an emergency call was convicted of assault in Roanoke Circuit Court on Friday. At a bench trial, Chad Willie, 34, was found guilty of felony assault and battery of a firefighter for an incident that occurred Feb. 29. Roanoke Fire-EMS crew members testified in court that they were called twice that day to a home on Wilmont Avenue, where Willie reported feeling ill.
"He was saying he didn't feel right," said Rebecca Ruth Smith, a firefighter and EMT.
She and others in her crew testified that while they were at his house, Willie began to have seizures and would emerge from his spells confused and combative.
"When he come to, he come to fighting," Smith added, and said she and five other medics struggled to get him on a stretcher.
Willie's girlfriend, Jessica Tench, said he was merely woozy from chemicals he'd been using to regrout their bathroom.
"I'm a nurse. He did not have a seizure," she testified. "He was having blackouts. He told them he was feeling better and he didn't need them."
Firefighter Baraka Kasongo said that as they struggled, Willie grabbed Smith's hand and thumb and, cursing, threatened to break it off.
"He was pulling it everywhere that he could," Kasongo told Judge Clifford Weckstein.
After Willie let go of her hand, Smith testified, he punched her in the forehead so hard she suffered a concussion. She said she vomited from the impact and crawled out of the house. Eventually Willie was restrained with his hands cuffed above his head, said Lt. J.J. Price.
Price said that when Willie calmed down, "he apologized for that multiple times." Willie's public defense lawyer, Charles Bullen, argued that the crews did not have an emergency custody order and said policy stipulates they have to attempt to get consent, or have the patient sign a refusal form.
"When he wasn't having the episodes, he was trying to get away from you," Bullen told Smith. "Pretty clear indication he didn't want you to touch him."
Bullen said that the crews had no right to impose treatment on Willie, and that Willie had the right to refuse it.
"The law of the right to resist is also the law of self-defense," Weckstein said in his ruling. "The law of self-defense is not available to the aggressor. Mr. Willie did not have the right to assault firefighter Smith as he did."
Weckstein allowed Willie to remain free on bond until his sentencing in September.