911 call audio911 call audio (contains adult language)
As he prepared to announce his plans to seek re-election to a fourth term, Forsyth County Sheriff Ted Paxton last week found himself answering questions about a potentially embarrassing 911 call.
On the call, made Jan. 13, an obviously distraught woman tells a 911 operator that a man is unconscious and unresponsive in the doorway of her northeastern Forsyth home.
Paxton has confirmed that he was the person for whom emergency medical help was called. The sheriff said he was at a private residence on the night of Jan. 13 when he became ill with what later was diagnosed as a blood sugar imbalance.
Paxton referred to the incident as a "private matter."
A copy of the 911 call was obtained by the Forsyth County News after a request under the state’s open records law.
Records show the house to which emergency personnel were dispatched is the home of Paula Olsen. The woman on the call identifies herself as "Paula," and declines to name the 59-year-old man who she said was unconscious across the threshold of her front door.
During the call, Olsen tells the emergency operator the man was staying with her baby while she was away from home.
Olsen can be heard telling the operator that the baby is fine and that the man was trying to leave and then fell. She confirms that she was home when he tried to leave.
She repeatedly expresses to the emergency operator her concern that the man may have had too much to drink.
Toward the end of the 10-minute audio recording, a male voice can be heard in the background saying to Olsen, "What have you done?" He also says, "I just had too much to drink."
Paxton said he was fine when Olsen came home that night. He said he got up to leave and lost consciousness while standing in the doorway.
The sheriff said that he’d had "one sip of alcohol" that night and that it was enough to trigger his medical condition.
He said he didn’t know why Olsen told the 911 operator that he had been drinking, except that she was possibly trying to explain why he passed out.
"The only thing I can tell from that is, during the course of the conversation, she is herself trying to make assumptions about what may have happened," Paxton said. "She has just come in and as I go to leave, I go down."
He said that at one point Olsen told the call taker that Paxton had been taking medication to help control his blood pressure.
In the recording, the operator can be heard asking Olsen if the man has been sick. However, Olsen’s answer apparently was redacted in the released version due to health privacy laws.
Olsen is also the woman who was injured in a motorcycle wreck with Paxton in June 2009. At the time Paxton identified Olsen as a friend.
With a politically charged sheriff’s race under way, it took little time for news of the 911 call to circulate once it became knowledge.
As of Friday afternoon, a copy of the audio uploaded to YouTube by a local political activist had been viewed more than 400 times.
Paperwork from the incident shows very little about what happened that night, nor does it identify the person emergency medical personnel were called to treat.
A report from Forsyth County EMS shows that a crew arrived at the house on Lakeside Court at 11:26 p.m. and left at 12:05 a.m.
It also shows that when emergency medical personnel arrived, Forsyth County Fire personnel were present and there was no patient to be treated.
A fire department report shows that personnel arrived at 11:23 p.m. in response to a report of a person down.
"Upon arrival we found no emergency on scene," the report shows. That crew left at 12:10 a.m.
With an election on the horizon, Paxton questioned the timing of the matter becoming public two months after it happened.
"It’s a mudslinging, trashslinging, politically motivated thing," he said. "I have done nothing illegal, I have done nothing wrong. I just had a medical condition that caused this episode to happen."
Forsyth County Coroner Lauren McDonald III and retired sheriff’s deputy Duane Piper have both announced their intentions to challenge Paxton for the top law enforcement post this summer.
To McDonald, who said someone sent him a copy of the recording, the matter is private.
"It sounded like there was somebody who needed help and there was somebody there that was concerned about another individual’s welfare," McDonald said. "It’s a private matter.
"Whatever the outcome was will be dealt with by whoever was on the scene calling 911."
McDonald, who owns a funeral home and also works for the local fire department, added that when fire and emergency medical personnel respond to an incident, they are expected to respect the patient’s privacy.
"Fire and EMS did what they were required to do to go out there and evaluate a patient," he said. "I do it myself just when I work for the fire department. We keep all that pretty private."
Attempts to reach Piper for comment were unsuccessful.
Staff writer Alyssa LaRenzie contributed to this report.