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Former paramedic 'Standing Courageous' against domestic violence

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    THE BLADE
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    Before she became an activist against domestic violence, Paula Walters, speaking to the nurses, was a firefighter, a paramedic, and a survivor. Here she is in a photo taken in a hospital after her then boyfriend strangled her.

    The Blade/Jetta Fraser
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    Registered nurses discuss a hospital-based scenario with a victim of domestic violence. They are, clockwise from left: Amber Geitgey, of Toledo [with pen and paper]; Drew Toth, of Maumee; Tacee Graff, of Oregon [partially obscured], Kayla Carr, of Ida, Michigan, and Jacob Hinojosa, of Temperance, Michigan.

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    Kelly Keiser, board chair of Standing Courageous, speaks at a workshop for new nurses on what to look for in domestic violence cases.

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With her ex-boyfriend’s hands wrapped around her neck, Paula Walters was convinced she was going to die.

Bryan Jameson, 45, accused Ms. Walters of cheating one night in June, 2006, after dinner with friends. The argument turned violent.

CTY-training08-3

Before she became an activist against domestic violence, Paula Walters, speaking to the nurses, was a firefighter, a paramedic, and a survivor. Here she is in a photo taken in a hospital after her then boyfriend strangled her.

The Blade/Jetta Fraser
Enlarge | Buy This Image

“The biggest thing I remember is I kept trying to leave and he sat on my hips. He put his knees on my forearms and said, ‘I don’t know if I should kiss or kill you,’ and he put his hands around my neck,” said Ms. Walters, 44, of Toledo.

Mr. Jameson, a former Toledo Correctional Institution investigator, is accused of punching and kicking Ms. Walters, according to a 2006 police report. Mr. Jameson grabbed a shotgun, loaded it, and again threatened to kill her, the report states. She said she was convinced Mr. Jameson — the man she loved — was going to succeed.

WATCH: Paula Walters helps others recognize domestic violence

“I cannot explain to you the horror when you look someone in the face and they’re trying to kill you,” she said. “He looked through me like I wasn’t even there, like it was an emptiness.”

Mr. Jameson was arrested in November, 2006, at his Merle Street home in West Toledo. He was indicted for felonious assault, a second-degree felony. On Jan. 23, 2007, a bill of information was filed, in lieu of a new indictment, for a misdemeanor offense of attempted aggravated menacing. 

The felony charge was dismissed once Mr. Jameson pleaded guilty to the lesser misdemeanor offense. He was sentenced to a suspended 90-day jail sentence and given one year probation. He was also ordered to attend an anger management course, perform community service, and pay a $500 fine.

At the time, Mr. Jameson, also a combat veteran, kept his job at the Toledo prison and was still legally allowed to carry a weapon.

Through an attorney, Mr. Jameson declined to comment on the 2006 case and a pending abduction charge filed in 2017, not involving Ms. Walters. 

Ms. Walters said she feels like the justice system failed her in the 2006 case.

“Because of documentation, because of policy, and mostly because of lack of education on strangulation, this person got a simple fine. No jail time,” Ms. Walters said.

There were clear signs of trauma, but back in 2006 doctors, law enforcement and first responders knew less about how to identify the signs of strangulation, said Ms. Walters, a paramedic. Though she survived the attack, she said her life is affected daily from the assault from over a decade ago.

It’s her mission to not let that happen to anyone else. 

Standing Courageous

Ms. Walters is now helping victims of domestic violence and first responders learn more about strangulation — which is the obstruction of blood vessels or airflow in the neck, resulting in asphyxia. Brain cell death from choking is rapid and can be fatal, according to the Training Institute on Strangulation Prevention.

She is the founder and president of Standing Courageous, a non-profit agency which provides comprehensive training to police, firefighters, emergency medical technicians, and other officials, because they can be “lifelines for victims,” Ms. Walters said. The organization, which serves 16 counties in northwest Ohio, celebrated its second anniversary in October.

“I started Standing Courageous because I needed to take back some form of control, and I needed to help things as far as education that was presented in my case,” she said.

Ms. Walters teamed up with several people in the community affected by domestic violence — including Perrysburg Township Detective Sgt. Todd Curtis, who teaches courses on domestic violence, and Kelly Keiser, whose sister was shot multiple times by her ex-husband.

Detective Sergeant Curtis said officers all over northwest Ohio are seeing more strangulation-related cases of late.

“I’ve been doing this job for 25 years and I’ve seen personally more strangulation incidents within the past 10 years than I can I remember in my first 15 years of law enforcement,” he said. “There’s probably a variety of reasons why that might be happening.”

During the Standing Courageous presentations, first responders learn what types of injuries or signs to look for that may show strangulation happened. The psychology of the victim and the abuser, and options for advocating for the victim, are also discussed.

Ms. Walters also talks about her case and shows pictures of her swollen face and bruised neck.

Ms. Walters and other representatives from Standing Courageous recently presented to a group of Mercy Health Toledo region registered nurse residents.

The presentation helped with the nurses’ awareness of such situations, said Karen Dziengelewski, the program coordinator for nursing orientation at Mercy Health St. Charles Hospital.

Symptoms of strangulation could include coughing or clearing of the throat, a hoarse voice, or loss of consciousness. Petechiae, or pinpoint spots that appear on the skin as a result of bruising, may also appear behind the ears — a symptom Ms. Walters had. 

“I thought it was really interesting because they brought stuff up that you might not normally look at, especially how they said pull up the hair,” said Drew Toth, 24, who is specializing on nursing in the emergency room. “That’s the last thing you think to do when someone comes in for something completely unrelated.”

Strangulation can be a precursor to domestic homicide, and first responders can play a role in stopping it, Ms. Walters said.

“We didn’t know what to look for back then, and now we do,” Detective Sergeant Curtis told The Blade. He has reviewed Ms. Walter’s case.

‘Welcome to my world’

The assistant prosecutor who handled Mr. Jameson’s 2006 case no longer works at the Lucas County Prosecutor’s Office. Jeff Lingo, chief of the criminal division, said he could not comment on specifics of the case because he was not involved in the legal proceedings.

Mr. Jameson is separately now charged with abduction, with a gun specification — a third-degree felony — in Hancock County Common Pleas Court. He’s accused of holding a youth at gunpoint at a campground near Bluffton over Memorial Day weekend, officials said.

His attorney for his most recent case, Alex Treece, declined comment for this story. 

Mr. Jameson contacted The Blade via email on Feb. 15. The Blade responded, asking Mr. Jameson in an e-mail to discuss the current allegations against him, but he did not respond. 

A jury trial was scheduled to begin Monday for Mr. Jameson’s Hancock County case, but has since been pushed back. On Feb. 27, Mr. Treece filed a not guilty by reason of insanity plea for his client in Hancock County Common Pleas Court. Mr. Jameson will undergo a psychological evaluation.

Since his arraignment, during which he pleaded not guilty, Mr. Jameson received a diagnosis for a matter that may be relevant to his mental state at the time of the alleged offense, Mr. Treece wrote in the court document. The diagnosis was not specified.

Mr. Jameson was reportedly with Ricci Nolen, former TCI correctional program specialist, at the campground. Ms. Nolen was charged in Findlay Municipal Court with obstructing official business, but the case was dismissed, according to court records. 

Both TCI employees were terminated from the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation & Corrections in January, according to a spokesman. 

ODRC notice of disciplinary action documentation for both Mr. Jameson and Ms. Nolen was provided to The Blade. The notice is a “predecessor to being terminated,” said Sonrisa Sehlmeyer, a spokesman for TCI. 

Ms. Nolen compromised or impaired the ability to effectively carry out her duties as a publice employee, brought discredit to the employer, and lied to officials during an investigation, according to the disciplinary document. 

Mr. Jameson’s charges from the Memorial Day incident were listed in the details of his violations, among other accusations of wrongdoing.

“The Christian in me wants to say, ‘I feel bad he lost his job,’ but the human in me wants to say, ‘Welcome to my world,’” Ms. Walters said.

Upside down

Her world really has been turned upside down. Daily tasks have become challenging and she may display unexplainable emotions in some situations.

Ms. Walters has been diagnosed with a moderate traumatic brain injury. She passes out if she turns her neck a certain way as scar tissue presses on her carotid artery. She has trouble hearing certain sounds. Her memory is poor.

CTY-training08-4

Registered nurses discuss a hospital-based scenario with a victim of domestic violence. They are, clockwise from left: Amber Geitgey, of Toledo [with pen and paper]; Drew Toth, of Maumee; Tacee Graff, of Oregon [partially obscured], Kayla Carr, of Ida, Michigan, and Jacob Hinojosa, of Temperance, Michigan.

The Blade/Jetta Fraser
Enlarge | Buy This Image

She’s had to cut back working as a paramedic because sirens and commotion at emergency scenes can overload her, she said. While she can handle the work periodically, she can no longer handle the daily emergency runs.

She refuses to receive disability benefits. She’s employed as an account manager at an insurance agency in Maumee, but multiple phones ringing at once or learning new responsibilities in her position is challenging, she said.

Still Ms. Walters said she doesn’t consider herself disabled and won’t try to go on disability.

“If I do that and I let him take away my ability to work, that’s still giving him control over me,” she said. “He’s affecting my life still and I don’t want that.”

People frequently ask her why she can’t “just get over it,” Ms. Walters said.

“I have, but there are certain circumstances that don’t let me,” she said. “I can’t just forget the fact that I can no longer be a paramedic like I want to be, I can’t forget my income has been cut in half, and going out to a simple dinner is no longer a dinner because I can’t hear without crying because the noise is so loud. People want me to get over something, but it affects my daily life. That is a constant reminder for me, so I don’t get to just forget.”

She plans on attending Mr. Jameson’s trial. That date is pending.

Ms. Walters continues to give Standing Courageous presentations. She hopes she can stop one domestic violence incident from spirialing into more incidents of violence, or death.

“A lot of people keep reminding me, ‘Hurt people, hurt people,’” she said. “So, if you don’t deal with it and flip it and make it a positive thing, you’re just going to hurt people like he did.”

The organization will be hosting two events in May:  a training day at the University of Toledo and its annual masquerade fund-raiser.

For more information, the organization can be reached at 419-690-6956 or at www.standingcourageous.com.

Contact Allison Reamer at areamer@theblade.com, 419-724-6506, or on Twitter @AllisonRBlade.

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