Indiana State Police Trooper William Waller, Versailles District, responded to Margaret Mary Health Oct. 28, 2019, at about midnight due to concerns that a Ripley County paramedic “was believed to have responded to a medical run in a county vehicle under the influence,” according to a probable cause affidavit filed in Ripley Superior Court March 19.
Upon arrival, the trooper spoke with Scott Huffman, who is a Ripley County EMS supervisor. Huffman said that he received a call from Alex Brison, an EMS employee, who was at Ripley Crossing, Milan, stating that paramedic Paul Heon, 49, Osgood, “was not acting right. Huffman was told that Heon had missed the driveway of Ripley Crossing, then when Heon turned around, he almost missed the driveway a second time, and drove through the grass area in between the entrance and exit driveways ...” The paramedic then drove up on a curb in front of the building before hitting the back of an ambulance that was parked at the front door.
“Huffman stated that Heon had then gotten into the ambulance and attempted to care for a patient that was in the ambulance while in transit to High Point Health in Dearborn County,” the court document said. After the call, Heon was transported by ambulance to MMH. The EMS supervisor stated that they had checked Heon’s sugar and for signs of a stroke while in the ambulance on the way to the hospital. When Huffman questioned Heon, the man thought that the day was Friday going into Saturday, when it was actually Sunday going into Monday.
After speaking with Huffman, Waller was directed to Heon’s hospital room. The trooper wrote, “I advised Heon that his co-workers and supervisors had expressed concern that he was possibly under the influence of something. I asked Heon if he had had anything to drink that day. Heon said that he did not have anything to drink. I also asked Heon if he was taking any medication. He said he had been self-medicating for a cold that he had been fighting for two weeks. He stated that it was just an over-the-counter medication. Heon also stated that he took several prescription medications that he takes as prescribed”: Ambien, a sleep aid; and high blood pressure and cholesterol medications.
The affidavit stated, “Heon said that he had taken the sleep aid that morning along with the over-the-counter medication in hopes that it being a Sunday there wouldn’t be many medical runs and (he) would be able to sleep off his cold.” The trooper noticed that his skin color was pale and he was sweating a lot. When asked, Heon said that he was a little hot. Waller asked the paramedic if he would be willing to have his blood drawn to check for anything in his system and Heon consented.
Waller continued, “After the blood draw, I asked Heon if he would let me do a quick test on his eyes. He said that he would.” The trooper did the Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus Test, asking Heon to stand with his feet together and hands down at his sides so that his eyes could follow the tip of his pen without moving his head. “As Heon was standing, he swayed back and forward to the extent that he almost fell and had to take a couple steps to regain his balance.”
Waller reported his eye pupils were of equal size and his eyes tracked equally. He reported, however, “Heon had lack of smooth pursuit ... (and) distinct and sustained nystagmus (involuntary usually rapid movement of the eyeballs) at maximum deviation” in both eyes. In addition, “Heon showed onset of nystagmus prior to 45 degrees” in both eyes.
The paramedic exhibited six out of six clues for this test, according to the court document.
Heon’s ER physician told the trooper “that due to how Heon was acting, he was going to keep him for observation overnight.”
Waller returned to MMH Oct. 29 and conducted a noncustodial recorded interview with Heon, who told him the hospital had determined that he had pneumonia.
Heon described the previous work day as “pretty uneventful. He remembers a couple calls, but did not remember going to Ripley Crossing. He stated he remembered going to a call and he didn’t feel right. He remembered pulling into a driveway where an ambulance was kind of blocking a driveway and he had to pull into the yard a little to go around the ambulance. He then said he pulled in behind the ambulance that was sitting by the door and thought he put his vehicle in park. As he was stepping out, he realized the vehicle was still moving, but couldn’t get it stopped before it hit the back of the ambulance. He didn’t realize how foggy he was until someone asked him if he was OK. Then he realized everyone was looking at him like he was doing everything wrong.”
Later that day, the trooper spoke with John Nickels, a Milan Police Department reserve officer and Ripley County EMT. Nickels stated as he was sitting at the state roads 350-101 intersection in his personal vehicle facing west, he saw a vehicle traveling east on S.R. 350 in the wrong lane. Nickels reported the vehicle passed Ripley Crossing and continued in the wrong lane until it reached S.R. 101. “The vehicle then turned around in the intersection without stopping and went back westbound in the eastbound lanes and almost ran off the road. The vehicle was not running with emergency lights.”
Nickels followed it into Ripley Crossing to talk to the ambulance driver about his driving behavior and stated that Heon was the driver.
Waller also obtained a Ripley Crossing security camera recording of the vehicle Heon was driving hitting the ambulance’s back and received two written statements from EMS personnel Brison and Jennifer Stevens provided by Huffman.
On March 18, Heon was charged with official misconduct, a Level 6 felony, because the “defendant, while in the performance of his official duties, operated a county emergency vehicle while intoxicated”; operating a vehicle while intoxicated endangering a person, a Class A misdemeanor; operating a vehicle with a Schedule I or II controlled substance (or its metabolite) in the body; and operating a vehicle while intoxicated, a Class C misdemeanor.
A $500 cash bond was received by the Ripley County clerk March 19. Ripley Superior Court Judge Jeffrey Sharp set an initial hearing for April 13 at 9 a.m., according to https://public.courts.in.gov/mycase, the Odyssey case management system used by Indiana courts.
That website stated, “The judicial branch is taking appropriate steps to respond to COVID-19, and courts around the state are implementing plans to postpone jury trials, allow for remote hearings and keep only essential staff in courthouses.”