LIMA — The plight of a woman who suffered what appear to be serious injuries while in the care of a Lima nursing home has gone viral, thanks to a well-known rapper and two high-profile civil rights activists.
The case of 70-year-old Lima resident Sue Washington, dubbed “Grandma Sue” in social media posts generated by activist Clifford Harris — better known as rapper T.I. — has attracted national attention after photos of the injuries she sustained at the Lima Rehab and Nursing Center first appeared on social media.
A report was filed with the Lima Police Department on July 3 in reference to injuries sustained by Washington at the Lima Rehab and Nursing Center, 599 S. Shawnee St. The woman reportedly sustained facial injuries at the facility and police are still attempting to determine just how those injuries occurred.
She is currently recovering in a Lima hospital.
Family members, who say they have been rebuffed by nursing home officials in their attempts to learn the circumstances behind Washington’s injuries, have retained the services of nationally-known human rights attorney Ben Crump, who was in Lima for a press conference and rally on Wednesday.
Crump, who operates a law firm based in Tallahassee, Florida, is best known for his association with the Florida case of George Zimmerman, who shot and killed Trayvon Martin on Feb. 26, 2012. Crump also represented the family of Michael Brown, a 17-year-old black male who was shot and killed by police on Aug. 9, 2014, in Ferguson, Missouri.
Joining Crump for Wednesday’s event in Lima was Tamika Mallory, co-founder of the 2017 Women’s March on Washington, D.C.
“We have come here today from New York and Atlanta and Florida after a video posted by rapper T.I. went viral,” Crump said. “Today there are 3 million people across America asking, ‘What happened to Grandma Sue?’
“And we are here to get answers,” Crump continued. “We know what happened at best is neglect; at worst it’s abuse … abuse in the worst way.”
Crump said Washington had a history of falls while at the nursing center, and “we believe that the fact she had been diagnosed with dementia should have placed (nursing home officials) on notice that she did not have full control of her faculties. It’s just fortunate the Susan Washington did not suffer fatal injuries when she fell.”
Crump said the case breeches any perceived racial divide.
“It this a race issue? No! This is a human race issue,” Crump said. “If we don’t do anything about this incident, it could happen to your grandparents next. I’m asking you all to stand up with us against elder abuse and get some answers for this family.”
Mallory said T.I. was “audibly upset” when speaking about photos he saw of Washington in her injured state. After the rapper’s social media posts went viral, “we heard from so many people across the country who told us they have had similar experiences.
“This is not a Lima issue, it’s a nationwide crisis that we must address,” Mallory said. “This family deserves accountability and they deserve it now. The state of Ohio must investigate this case. “
Crump said activists are asking the state of Ohio “to sanction this facility and hold them responsible.”
Tajsa Cobb, Washington’s daughter, said the family is simply “asking for answers; we still don’t know what happened.”
Debra Antney, another family member, asked people in the community to remain calm and to not call the nursing home with threats, as has reportedly happened.
But Crump said the nursing home will also not be permitted to “sweep this under the rug.”
“The family has been stonewalled in their attempt to gain information,” Crump said. “This nursing home has been very arrogant to the family.”
The Rev. Ron Fails, president of the Lima chapter of the NAACP, said the family “has actually been locked out” of the nursing home and alleged that employees of the facility “locked the doors and called the police” when they saw Washington’s family members approaching.
A spokesman at the Ohio Department of Health on July 5 confirmed the agency had been made aware of the incident but said he could not make any further statement at the current time.
“We will do an investigation,” the ODH spokesman said.
‘No justice, no peace’
Supporters from as far away as Cleveland gathered outside the Lima Rehab and Nursing Center in the hot afternoon sun Wednesday afternoon in a show of unity for the family of Susan Washington and to support the efforts to obtain answers behind her injuries.
Some two dozen or more supporters gathered in the street outside the nursing home as Crump, Mallory and others vowed to remain vigilant to “affirm the humanity of Susan Washington and the dignity of all the residents of the nursing home that stands behind us.”
“We are here for Grandma Sue and all the Grandma Sues inside that building,” said Mallory. “We will not allow business to go on as usual.”
The protesters engaged in a chant of “No justice, no peace” for passersby to hear.