Meningitis warning follows man’s death days after Facebook video at police station

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WABC-TV(PATERSON, N.J.) — The death of a man who broadcast his final conscious moments on Facebook Live from a Paterson, New Jersey, police station has triggered a warning from health officials for anyone who came in contact with him to get examined immediately for bacterial meningitis.

Jameek Lowery, 27, died on Monday at a hospital, two days after he walked into the lobby of the Paterson Police Department headquarters and said in his Facebook Live broadcast that police officers were going to kill him. He had earlier called 911 to say he was high on the drug ecstasy, according to the Passaic County Prosecutor, whose office is investigating his death.

Lowery’s death has sparked protests in Paterson, and Lowery’s family attended a city council meeting Tuesday to demand answers.

Dr. Paul Persaud, director of the Paterson Health Department, told ABC News on Thursday that tests are underway to determine if Lowery had contracted Neisseria meningitis, a potentially deadly illness that, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, can infect the lining of the brain and spinal cord. The illness is also called meningococcal meningitis.

“It’s under investigation, but it has not been confirmed,” Persaud said. “But we are providing chemoprophylaxis to those who were in close contact with the gentleman, Mr. Lowery.”

Chemoprophylaxis refers to medicine, including antibiotics, used to prevent disease. Officials have not specified how the suspicion of meningitis came about.

Paterson Mayor Andre Sayegh told ABC News Thursday that he had come in contact with Lowery recently and that he was examined for meningitis late Wednesday night. He said he was treated with antibiotics.

“I met him a week before his death,” Sayegh said. “I was in a restaurant and [Lowery] spotted me from outside. He came in, we hugged, he took a picture, I told him to come and see me at City Hall anytime he liked and that was it.”

“It’s unfortunate,” the mayor said. “I felt badly. I mean, here was a young man I just met, had a favorable impression of, took a liking to him, and now he’s no longer here.”

The New Jersey Department of Health is working with the Paterson Department of Health and Human Services to “identify and notify individuals who had close contact with the suspect case of meningococcal disease since Dec. 29, 2018, the date the person might have first become infectious to others,” New Jersey health officials said in a statement.

Persaud said a number of police officers and emergency medical service workers who had contact with Lowery at the Paterson Police Headquarters have already been examined and treated with antibiotics.

He said it was unclear how many people had been in close contact with Lowery.

“We are in the process of determining that. So, this can take some time to determine,” Persaud said.

He said some people who had contact with Lowery have shown up at St. Joseph’s, a hospital in Paterson, to be examined.

Health officials said symptoms of meningococcal include fever, headaches, stiff neck, nausea, vomiting and altered mental status.

The cause of Lowery’s death is under investigation and pending the results of an autopsy, Passaic County Prosecutor Camelia M. Valdes said in a statement earlier this week.

A preliminary investigation showed that while “police used physical force and compliance holds to secure Mr. Lowery in an ambulance,” hospital records “indicate no acute trauma” was evident on Lowery’s body, according to a statement from Valdes.

Lowery called 911 about 2:45 a.m. on Saturday, saying he had taken ecstasy and was paranoid, Valdes said.

An emergency medical services crew from the Paterson Fire Department responded, according to Valdes, and took Lowery to St. Joseph’s hospital.

“Mr. Lowery left the hospital sometime after becoming erratic at the hospital,” Valdes’s statement reads.

Lowery called 911 again about 3:42 a.m. Saturday, claiming people were trying to kill him in the area of Broadway and Memorial Drive, near Passaic County Community College, according to Valdes.

Three minutes after placing the second 911 call, Lowery walked into the lobby of the Paterson Police Department headquarters and began broadcasting on Facebook Live.

“I need water. I thought I was gonna throw up,” Lowery told three officers standing in the lobby, according to his Facebook Live broadcast.

“Y’all gonna kill me. They’re gonna kill me. Please help me,” he said. “Mom, I’m sorry. They’re gonna do this to me. They’re gonna kill your baby boy. Alright, go ahead and kill me. Please don’t shoot me.”

A police officer told him, “Just relax,” but officers declined his request for water, according to the five-minute Facebook Live broadcast.

When an EMS crew arrived at police headquarters, Lowery’s broadcast ended.

“Paterson Police and Paterson Fire Department records indicate the transportation from headquarters to the hospital took approximately five to 12 minutes,” Valdes said in her statement. “Upon arrival at the hospital, Mr. Lowery was unresponsive.”

The officers filmed in Lowery’s Facebook Live broadcast have been placed on administrative leave pending the results of the investigation.

“We want facts. I’ve been working on this since Saturday. I’ve canceled appointments on Monday and Tuesday so I can focus on getting not just answers, but accurate answers,” Mayor Sayegh told the crowd at Tuesday night’s city council meeting.

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