By ADAM LIPTAK
Billy Snead was furiously trying to save the life of a friend having a heart attack on a West Virginia roadside in June when the police chief arrived. The chief, Mr. Snead recalled yesterday, ordered him to stop.
Claude Green Jr. died of a heart attack last June at the age of 43.
The chief, Robert K. Bowman of the small town of Welch, told Mr. Snead that his friend, red-faced and gasping for breath, had the virus that causes AIDS, according to a lawsuit filed yesterday. Chief Bowman grabbed Mr. Snead's shoulder, the suit says, pulling him away from his friend, Claude Green Jr.
Mr. Snead resisted, saying he was having success. Trained in cardiopulmonary resuscitation, Mr. Snead tried to continue pressing and then pounding on Mr. Green's chest.
"Every time I'd do it, he'd take a breath," Mr. Snead said of Mr. Green yesterday.
But the chief was adamant, Mr. Snead said. "He just come over and told me to get off of him," Mr. Snead said.
Mr. Green, who was 43, died at Welch Community Hospital less than an hour later. Chief Bowman, the suit said, did nothing to help Mr. Green but did tell ambulance workers and hospital personnel that Mr. Green was positive for H.I.V.
As it happened, the suit says, that was false. Mr. Green was gay, but he did not have the virus, according to the suit, filed in federal court in Bluefield, W.Va.
In the suit, Mr. Green's estate, represented by the American Civil Liberties Union, accused Chief Bowman and the town of Welch of violating Mr. Green's civil rights and causing his death.
The Associated Press quoted Chief Bowman as calling the accusations lies. He said that he called an ambulance and that Mr. Green was taken to the hospital in "no more than nine minutes."
"No one refused him CPR as his sister and mom are saying," The A.P. quoted the chief as saying. "They can do what they want, but if they're saying I refused him CPR, that is no way true."
Mr. Snead was a passenger in Mr. Green's truck in the early afternoon on June 21, 2005, when Mr. Green stiffened, turned red and veered off the road. Mr. Snead ran to the driver's side, checked Mr. Green's mouth for obstructions and performed chest compressions.
Medical experts said Mr. Snead would not have been at risk had Mr. Green been infected with H.I.V.
"A finger sweep of the mouth, so long as the skin on the finger is intact, and performing chest compressions poses no risk for transmission of H.I.V.," said Dr. Sarah J. Schlesinger, a research associate professor at Rockefeller University and a research scientist at the Aaron Diamond AIDS Research Center.
Mr. Snead, 33, said Mr. Green, who was a caretaker for rental properties owned by his mother, Helen Green, was "a good old fellow, good for everyone around him." He added that he was not sure whether the chief's actions had made a difference.
"I don't know if he'd have made it or not," Mr. Snead said of Mr. Green. "I'm not a doctor. But at least he would have had a fighting chance."