- In July, Shirell Powell says she got a call that her brother was in St. Barnabas Hospital dying.
- Doctors apparently told Powell that her brother, who was unconscious from an apparent drug overdose, had suffered brain damage.
- She gathered her grieving family and ultimately made the decision to take the man off life support.
- But in a lawsuit, Powell claims that the man was not her brother at all.
- The man was apparently Freddy Clarence Williams – not her brother Frederick Williams, who is currently in jail.
On July 15, Shirell Powell says she got a call no one wants to receive: Her brother was in St. Barnabas Hospital in the Bronx, dying.
Doctors told Powell that her brother was unconscious following an apparent drug overdose and had suffered brain damage, according to the New York Post.
According to a copy of a lawsuit obtained by The Washington Post, doctors advised Powell that her brother, Frederick Williams, was not going to survive. So Powell gathered her grieving family from across the country and went to his bedside.
“That is my baby brother, so it was really hurtful,” she told the New York Post. “I was worried, hurt, crying, screaming, calling everybody. It was a horrible feeling.”
But something was amiss.
The man’s face was swollen from the trauma to his body, rendering him somewhat unrecognizable, and family members said they expressed concerns that the man in the hospital bed might not be who doctors said he was.
Powell said her sister commented that the man in the hospital bed appeared to be much bigger than their brother.
“She walked up into the room and said, ‘That is not my brother,'” Powell told the New York Post. “I said, ‘What do you mean?'”
But upon a closer look, the women agreed: They could see the resemblance, Powell told the New York Post, in “the eyebrows, the nose, the structure – it looked like [our] brother.”
On July 29, Powell gave St. Barnabas Hospital permission to withdraw life support from the man she believed to be her brother, per the lawsuit. But it wasn’t until the autopsy results came in on August 16 she found that the man she was caring for was not her brother at all.
Per the lawsuit, the medical examiner found that the body was actually of a man named Freddy Clarence Williams – a stranger to Powell – and not her brother, Frederick Williams. The men, both 40, share first and last names. However, Powell’s brother does not have a middle name.
What’s more, the lawsuit alleges that when Freddy was admitted to the hospital, he had identification with him – including his social security card.
“I nearly fainted because I killed somebody that I didn’t even know. I gave consent,” Powell told the New York Post. “I was like, ‘Where is my brother? What is going on?’ I was devastated.”
Now, Powell is suing the hospital for negligence.
“The hospital feels strongly that the lawsuit has no merit,” a spokesperson for St. Barnabas Hospital said in a statement to INSIDER.
After the devastating mix-up, Powell began to search for her brother. She found him in jail on Rikers Island. Williams was arrested in August on assault charges and his next court date is Thursday, according to records seen by The Washington Post.
Powell and Williams have talked about the case of mistaken identity – and Williams told the New York Post that he respects what his sister did.
“The doctors told her they couldn’t do anything,” Williams said. “I’m not mad at her.”
Powell, on the other hand, said she’s had a difficult time processing the events of this past summer.
“I barely sleep thinking about this all the time,” she said. “To actually stand over him and watch this man take his last breath – sometimes I can’t even talk about it because I get upset and start crying.”
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