Who is David Fowler? Pathology expert says carbon monoxide poisoning from patrol car led to George Floyd's death

Fowler said Floyd died of a sudden irregular heartbeat due to his underlying heart disease, use of fentanyl and meth, and carbon monoxide he inhaled from a nearby police cruiser

                            Who is David Fowler? Pathology expert says carbon monoxide poisoning from patrol car led to George Floyd's death
Dr David Fowler testified against George Floyd (Twitter/FindMyGrave/ LinkedIn/david-fowler)

The former chief medical examiner of Maryland said that he believes George Floyd died after inhaling carbon monoxide on Wednesday, April 14, 2021, and sparked massive controversy. During the trial of Derek Chauvin — the former Minneapolis police officer charged with Floyd's death — medical expert testimony was presented by the defense.

Dr David Fowler — a forensic pathologist who reviewed Floyd's case for the defense — testified that he believes Floyd died of a sudden irregular heartbeat due to his underlying heart conditions, use of fentanyl and methamphetamine and possible carbon monoxide he inhaled from a nearby police cruiser in May 2020 during his restraint and subdual by Minneapolis police. "All of those combined to cause Mr Floyd's death," Dr David Fowler said.

“There is exposure to a vehicle exhaust, so potentially carbon monoxide poisoning, or at least an effect of carbon monoxide in his bloodstream,” he said. 


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A mural painted by artist Kenny Altidor depicting George Floyd (Getty Images)

Who is David Fowler?

Dr David Fowler was born in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe, according to his LinkedIn profile. His interest in medicine and pathology began when he was in the fourth grade, it says. After finishing medical school in 1983, he followed it up with an internship in general medicine and surgery, followed by a year in pediatric pathology at the Red Cross Children's Hospital and a residency in forensic pathology at the University of Cape Town.

He moved to Baltimore in 1991 and did two years of residency at the Department of Pathology at the University of Maryland. He then finished two years of Forensic Pathology Fellowship at the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner for Maryland and joined the staff as an assistant Medical Examiner.

Fowler held the positions of Deputy Chief ME (Medical Examiner) for Autopsy Services and Statewide services before becoming interim Chief ME in 2001. The next year, Fowler was appointed the Chief ME for the State of Maryland. Fowler is presently an associate professor at the University of Maryland in the Departments of Pediatrics and Pathology, faculty at the National Study Center for Trauma and EMS, the Center for Injury Research and Policy at the Bloomberg School of Public Health at Johns Hopkins.

He also has multiple visiting professorships internationally and has written a plethora of book chapters, scientific journal articles and formal presentations. On December 31, 2019, Fowler retired as Maryland's Chief ME. He presently works as a private independent consultant in Forensic Pathology and Medicine and also serves on the Forensic Sciences Standards Board. The doctor advocates the use of death investigative data to inform public leadership and protect public health and safety of communities, his profile says.

Dr. David Fowler (LinkedIn/david-fowler-92b48925)

Manner of death: 'Undetermined'

Floyd was living with up to 90 percent narrowing of his arteries before he died, Fowler told jurors after he was called by the defense on the 13th day of the trial, a report by Insider reads. He added that Chauvin's kneeling on Floyd was not a significant factor resulting in his death and added that Chauvin's knee was not near Floyd's airway. He said there were many contributing factors to Floyd's death and this is why he would consider the manner of death "undetermined", instead of terming it a homicide.

Floyd died in May 2020 after Chauvin kneeled on him, handcuffed him and pinned him against the asphalt ground for almost nine minutes. The Minneapolis police officer has been charged with murder and manslaughter. 

What Folwer stated differs from what medical experts called by the prosecution said. Expert pulmonologist Dr Martin Tobin testified that "a healthy person subjected to what Mr. Floyd was subjected to would have died." Cardiologist Dr Jonathan Rich said on Monday, April 12, that while Floyd had high blood pressure, his heart was "exceptionally strong". Medical examiners in determining the manner of death can choose one of five classifications — homicide, natural, accidental, undetermined or suicide.

A portrait of George Floyd sits among flowers at a memorial near the site where George Floyd died at the hands of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin on March 28, 2021 in Minneapolis, Minnesota (Getty Images)

Fowler is being sued by a Black teen's family

While he was the Chief ME of Maryland, Fowler ruled the death of a Black teenager as an accident. However, the teen was killed after a scuffle with three White law enforcement officials and a White civilian in 2018 on Maryland's Eastern Shore. There were no charges in the case. The family of the 19-year-old, Anton Black, told WTOP ahead of Fowler’s testimony that the two cases are eerily similar.

Fowler also named bipolar disorder as a contributing factor to the teen's death, according to the lawsuit, as reported by Insider. Incidentally, Fowler is being sued in federal court by Black's family. 

When asked about Dr Fowler’s role in the trial of Chauvin, Rene Swafford, an attorney on the Black family's legal team, told The Sun: “We don’t find Dr Fowler a credible witness by any stretch of the imagination because he’s consistent in his autopsies where he wants to assist the officers in demonizing and criminalizing Blacks who are killed by police.”

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