A 48-year-old Pasadena, Md., businessman, who was serving a six-month work-release sentence at the Anne Arundel Detention Center for drunk driving, died yesterday of a heart attack, and another inmate said his plea that the man be given medical help went unheeded for two hours.
County police said Herman G. Huffman died about 9 a.m., about half an hour after paramedics arrived at the detention center.
Nick Christofel, an inmate whose prison record lists him as a trained paramedic, said in a telephone interview he found Huffman about 6 a.m. complaining of chest pains and shortness of breath.
Christofel said he then brought Huffman to the guard's station and told the guard that Huffman, who had been taking heart medication, appeared to be having a heart attack.
An ambulance was called at 8:10 a.m., when Huffman experienced a seizure, officials said.
The guard, Cecil Kilgore, a three-year employe of the detention center, told a reporter last night that he asked Huffman if he wanted to go to the hospital but that Huffman declined. He said Huffman complained only of a hernia and stomach ache, irritated by a case of asthma.
Christofel said he found Huffman about 6 a.m., complaining that "his chest was killing him and . . . clutching at his chest and rubbing his abdomen."
He also said Huffman complained of shortness of breath and pain in his left arm -- both signs of heart distress.
Christofel, 33, who said he is serving time for writing bad checks, said he told Kilgore that he thought Huffman was having a heart attack. "I said he needs care now and he needs to be taken to a doctor or a hospital," said Christofel, who added that the guard knew he had training as a paramedic.
"I told this directly to Kilgore and looked him right in the eye and he told me to get out," said Christofel. "So I said 'yes, sir,' and walked out." Christofel said he did not hear Huffman say anything about a hernia.
Kilgore denied Christofel ever alerted him that the man was having a heart attack. He said he dismissed Christofel, who "didn't say anything." Asked if Huffman could have gone to the hospital if he had wished, Kilgore replied: "Sure, he would've been able to go."
Kilgore also said that the conversation occurred about 6:50 a.m. -- not 6 a.m. as Christofel said.
James Wheeler, the doctor who treated Huffman at Anne Arundel General Hospital emergency room in Annapolis and who checked him after his death said Huffman did not have an active hernia.
Asked if Huffman could have suffered pain from a hernia, Wheeler responded: "No." Wheeler is also medical examiner for Anne Arundel County.
Detention center superintendent Richard J. Baker said yesterday that there are "conflicting reports" on the incident and that it "will have to be investigated." He said he had asked that all the detention center guards and inmates who saw Huffman fall ill, including Christofel and Kilgore, prepare written statements on the incident.
Christofel and Baker said an ambulance and paramedics were summoned after Huffman's 8 a.m. seizure, by which time Kilgore's shift was over and he had left the detention center. Baker said Kilgore reported "there had been no indication that there was any serious problem" before Huffman was stricken.
Paramedics treated Huffman at the detention center for about half an hour before taking him to Anne Arundel General Hospital. Huffman was pronounced dead about 9 a.m.
Huffman began serving a six-month sentence May 20 for driving while intoxicated. He would havebeen released by November.
He was in the work-release program, leaving the detention center every morning for work and returning at night and on weekends. Some of his friends and relatives did not know he had been sentenced on the drunk driving charge, according to his wife. Huffman's specific occupation could not be learned last night. Christofel and other sources said that Huffman was taking nitroglycerin because he had experienced chest pains recently.
He also was taking a number of other medications, according to one source who asked not to be identified.
Christofel also works outside the prison during the day and is eligible for parole next month.
Christofel said he and Huffman were friends who drank coffee and talked most nights.