A North Carolina paramedic was arrested after he allegedly sexually assaulted a 17-year-old girl in the back of an ambulance earlier this year.
According to a press release from the City of Charlotte, on January 17, the unnamed victim had experienced an unspecified "medical episode" and was transported to Atrium Health Main in Charlotte, North Carolina, via ambulance provided by Fort Hill EMS. Akingbiwaju Joseph Opadele, 30, was the only Fort Hill EMS paramedic who was with the teen in the back of the ambulance during the ride to the hospital.
When they reached the hospital, the victim reported to hospital staff that Opadele had reached into her pants and sexually assaulted her during the ambulance ride. Though the exact nature of the girl's medical episode is unclear, she was reportedly coherent enough to understand what the suspect had done and to report the alleged assault.
"The type of medical episode she was suffering did not necessitate any touching," said Maj. Melanie Peacock of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department. "This case is particularly disturbing given it involves a person in a position of medical authority preying upon a patient suffering a medical episode. I can’t think of anything that’s more of a deplorable violation of trust."
In addition to medical treatment, the girl was given a sexual assault kit at the hospital. The evidence collected from that kit and from the victim's statement gave officers probable cause to arrest Opadele, and a warrant was issued for his arrest on March 7.
Opadele was charged with one count of felony sexual contact under the pretext of medical treatment, a class C felony which carries a minimum sentence of 44 months in prison. Despite the seriousness of the charge, Opadele was able to leave Mecklenburg County Detention Center after just 37 minutes in custody because he had posted a $15,000 unsecured bond. Police Chief Johnny Jennings used Opadele's case to express his outrage about the low cash bail system in general.
"You're probably going to be in this media room for longer than 37 minutes," Jennings told reporters at a press conference. "Your lunch break was probably longer than 37 minutes."
Jennings added that everyone involved in the criminal justice system needs to consider the kind of "message" that low cash bail sends "to our victims, our most vulnerable people within our society."
Jennings alleged that such a system allows suspects like Opadele to "walk right out the door, probably before our officers and our detectives and all of our people that worked on this case, probably before they even got back to their desk."
When Opadele is next expected to appear in court is unclear.
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