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New Accusations Against Physician

Ex-King/Drew trainee used stolen medical kits on a man he molested and killed, board says.

June 02, 2004|Charles Ornstein | Times Staff Writer

A former physician trainee at Martin Luther King Jr./Drew Medical Center used medical equipment believed to have been stolen from the hospital on a deaf-mute man he allegedly abused and killed in Calexico, according to a new filing by medical regulators.

In seeking to discipline Dr. Warren Lemons, the Medical Board of California also described videotapes allegedly made by Lemons in which he is shown drugging MacArthur Townsend into unconsciousness and then molesting him on the day he died.

Lemons, 39, was arrested in April on suspicion of murdering Townsend, 22, during a sexual encounter in a Calexico hotel room. Lemons admitted to police that he may have overmedicated Townsend with powerful sedatives while practicing medical procedures on him, according to previous medical board filings.

Lemons met Townsend while he was a family medicine trainee at King/Drew from 1999 to 2001 and Townsend was a patient there.

The Imperial County district attorney has not filed criminal charges in the case. Lemons' lawyer, Robert A. Jones, said he believed his client ultimately would be exonerated.

He also said he has not spoken to his client about some of the information in the medical board accusation.

Last month, the board obtained an order temporarily preventing Lemons from practicing medicine in the state. In its latest filing, on May 27, the board sought more permanent sanctions.

In the new accusation, Deputy Atty. Gen. Thomas Lazar, representing the board, alleged that Lemons stole two adult airway resuscitation emergency kits from King/Drew, including equipment to open clogged airways and keep them open during surgeries.

The kits were reportedly found during a search of his hotel room April 15, the day after Townsend died.

John Wallace, a spokesman for the Los Angeles County Department of Health Services, which runs King/Drew, declined to comment Tuesday. He cited the ongoing investigation by Calexico police.

The department has already acknowledged that King/Drew employees gave Lemons the original medical file belonging to Townsend in January, about 2 1/2 years after he was fired from the hospital's family medicine training program.

The county has also said Lemons barricaded himself and Townsend in an unused patient room at King/Drew in February. Safety police officers found him with his hospital identification badge, videotaping equipment, soft restraints and a bottle of baby oil. They did not take his badge from him because they were unable to determine if he was still an employee, county officials said.

Calexico police have said they seized 140 videotapes from Lemons, some of which show naked men posing at his direction. The medical board document described eight unidentified naked men in what appear to be different examination rooms of a medical facility.

Police, along with Los Angeles County officials, are still trying to determine if the tapes were shot at King/Drew or a county-owned clinic affiliated with it.

One tape seized by police shows the hours before Townsend's death, the medical board said.

Lemons is shown giving Townsend numerous drugs -- by mouth, patch and injection -- and using intubation equipment on him. He is also shown moving Townsend's body "into various positions on the table" so Lemons could massage Townsend's genitals, the board said.

In another scene, Lemons ties Townsend's hands and feet to the table with straps and ties a mask over his eyes before molesting him. He then places Townsend's body on an ironing board on the table and binds him to the board, the board's accusation says.

The document also details how Lemons resisted attempts by Border Patrol agents to search his car in September at the Interstate 8 checkpoint in San Diego County.

When Lemons took a fighting stance and moved toward an agent, the agent responded by using pepper spray on Lemons. Agents found video equipment and several packages of prescription drugs in his car, according to the document.

He was cited for assault and resisting arrest and released.

Times staff writer Richard Marosi contributed to this report.

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