Hypo Hazards: How Tom Moore Nearly Lost His Life on the Way Home from Dinner

| Aug 1, 1998

For a person with diabetes the prospect of going into a hypo while driving is frightening at the least. On the evening of June 12, this is exactly what happened to 34-year-old Virginia resident Tom Moore, who was plunged into a bizarre series of events as a result.

Barely coherent from a hypo, Moore drove 30 miles the wrong way down a busy interstate freeway. He was then pepper-sprayed, beaten with a nightstick and attacked by a police dog after being stopped by Frederick County deputies who believed he was under the influence of drugs and alcohol.

A State of Chaos

According to Frederick County Sheriff's Department spokesman Capt. Fred Anderson, at 1:00 a.m. deputies were informed by a retired Montgomery County police officer of a man driving erratically down a Maryland highway and swerving into the guardrail.

Deputies assumed they had a very drunk driver on their hands. After a nine-mile chase against traffic, deputy Rick Winer managed to force Moore's truck into a guardrail where he came to a standstill. He was then ordered to get out. According to Anderson, Moore was belligerent, growling and grabbing at the gearshift in an attempt to drive off.

Moore was then pepper-sprayed, but it seemed to only make him more agitated, said Anderson. Another officer arrived with a police dog which attacked Moore. Finally he was pulled from the truck and hit with a nightstick until subdued and then handcuffed.

It wasn't until Moore was handcuffed that a state trooper saw Moore's MedicAlert tag hanging from the truck's rearview mirror.

"These deputies were supposedly trained emergency medical technicians," said Peter Davis, Mr. Moore's lawyer. "But they failed to recognize a MedicAlert tag stating he had diabetes."

When asked why the deputies didn't notice the MedicAlert tag Anderson said it was overlooked in the heat of the moment.

"In the chaotic state of things the officers didn't see it," he said.

When asked where a person with diabetes should display a MedicAlert tag, he replied, "It may help if it's worn on the left wrist as recommended or around the neck, but we still may not be able to immediately identify it."

No Apologies

At 5' 11" and over 200 pounds Moore is an imposing figure. Still, many were shocked by the excessive force used by the officers.

Anderson believes his deputies acted according to procedure. "It's easy to second guess the officers now," he said. "But they were trying to get him handcuffed and subdued. He was trying to drive off and if he had, I'd hate to imagine what could have happened next."

"The police department has not apologized for using excessive force," said Moore's lawyer. "In fact they think the officer should be given a medal for saving his life."

Moore was charged with six offenses: fleeing and eluding police, reckless and negligent driving, hit and run with property damage, driving the wrong way on a one-way street and failure to obey police. These charges were dropped after Moore's attorney produced documentation from his doctor stating he was suffering from diabetic hypoglycemia at the time of the incident.

Moore spent four days in the hospital being treated for dog bites and blunt trauma to the head, back, shoulders and arms. He has not indicated whether he will file a lawsuit against the deputies for using excessive force.

Moore's lawyer does plan to file a notice of a claim against the Frederick County Sheriff's department within the next 180 days, however. "Somewhere down the line after his (Moore's) emotional, medical and mental injuries are established we'll consider if a lawsuit should be filed," said Davis.

Never Anything Like This

Moore, a credit union department manager in Centreville, Virginia, has had diabetes since the age of six, and had a kidney transplant in 1992.

"He has had lows in the past where he was able to recognize them in time and treat them," said Davis. "But he has never experienced anything like this."

Anderson said that the Frederick County sheriff's office has sent a letter to the Department of Motor Vehicles in Virginia asking that Moore be reexamined for his drivers license. "We want to be sure that he is physically capable of driving and of controlling his diabetes," he said.

For now, Moore has declined to speak with the press while he recovers from his injuries.

"He's healing physically and emotionally," said Davis. "He's glad that he's alive and that nobody was hurt. And he's still suffering from the stress of being beat up so badly."

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Categories: Diabetes, Drivers License & Pilot License, Hypoglycemia Unawareness, Low Blood Sugar, Type 1 Issues

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