Brett Campbell is a 22-year-old Germantown resident who is severely disabled — confined to a wheelchair, unable to move or speak — and on Tuesday, August 2 he was left by his caregiver in a sweltering hot van for an hour while she went shopping and talked with friends at Lakeforest Mall, according to police.
Gaithersburg Police arrested and charged 26-year-old, Afia Obour of Gaithersburg, who was Campbell’s caregiver after she was located talking with friends in the mall. She has been charged with one count Abuse or Neglect of a Vulnerable Adult in the First Degree and one count of Abuse or Neglect of a Vulnerable Adult in the Second Degree/Custodian.
Gaithersburg Police said that they were called to the parking lot outside of the food court at Lakeforest Mall in Gaithersburg at 7:55 pm on Tuesday, Aug. 2 after a passerby noticed an individual in a red van. The passerby “approached the vehicle and observed an adult male, who appeared to be a vulnerable adult. The individual was in a wheelchair, red in the face, conscious but not responsive,” according to court documents.
Montgomery County Fire Rescue Service was also called to the scene at Lakeforest Mall and found Campbell in the vehicle with the vehicle turned off, and all the doors closed. According to court documents, Fire/Rescue opened the doors to reduce the interior temperature believing Campbell was in distress. “Campbell was very red in the face, sweating profusely, and unresponsive to questions asked by Fire/Rescue,” according to charging documents. Campbell’s temperature was 102 degrees, and he was transported to Shady Grove Adventist Hospital.
Gaithersburg Police later reached out to Campbell’s parents who were half-a-world away on a cruise ship vacationing Europe. Lynne Campbell, Brett’s mother, told Germantown Pulse that Brett was treated and released later into the custody of another caregiver sometime Wednesday morning. “He is feeling much better after he was given fluids, his temperature was lowered at the hospital,” said Lynne Campbell.
Lynne Campbell said that Brett is very sensitive to heat and does not regulate his body temperature well, as a result of a brain injury suffered during birth. “We have always limited his time in high heat and make sure he stays hydrated,” she said.
Police eventually found Brett’s caregiver Afia Obour, after another passerby overheard her conversation with another woman near the mall’s food court entrance. That passerby alerted police, and they were able to identify Obour as the caregiver who has left the patient unattended in the van.
According to court documents, Obour told police that “she only went [in the mall] to use the bathroom and pay a bill, but had a to-go bag of food from the Lakeforest Mall food court.” Obour was arrested and transported to Gaithersburg Police headquarters for further questioning. After further questioning, Obour “finally said that she could have been in the mall for about an hour or so.” Obour told police that she was talking to friends at a salon near the food court.
While under questioning by Special Victims detectives Obour told investigators that Campbell was a “total care patient meaning that she has to feed him, bath him, change his diapers and cloth him. This is significant because Campbell can’t move at all and is non-verbal, and is, therefore, unable to drink fluids, exit the vehicle, or communicate for help,” said the charging documents.
Lynne Campbell said she couldn't be sure Brett was aware of how much danger he was in while he was trapped in the van because he is unable to communicate other than facial expressions and vocalizations. “He expresses happiness and discomfort,” said Brett’s mother. “He knows his name and his family and the people around him. He is very happy and extremely easy going. He laughs a lot and seems to have a great sense of humor. Brett lives at home and receives support services to help him have access to the community. Our goal for Brett since birth was for him to be an active member in his community.”
She said Brett was fully included in elementary school and then participated in a dual program with the Longview School and Kingsview Middle and Northwest High School. “He swims, bowls, participates in art and dance classes, concerts, library events, and has volunteered at the local animal shelter. We have worked hard to give Brett a rich, stimulating life. It is our belief that, like everyone, he has gifts to share with the world without ever uttering a word. His smile alone is full of sunshine.”
If convicted on both counts of Vulnerable Adult Abuse, Obour could face 15 years in prison and/or $15,000 in fines. She was released on $10,000 bond and has a preliminary hearing in Montgomery County District Court on Friday, August 28.
Top: Lakeforest Mall in Gaithersburg, where police say a caregiver left a 22-year-old disabled Germantown man in a hot van for an hour on Tuesday. Photo by Germantown Pulse
Next: Brett Campbell. Photo courtesy Campbell family.