First on the Scene – Advance Responders

Medicolegal Death Investigation Overview for First Responders
Paul R. Parker III, B.S., D-ABMDI

First RespondersPolice officers, sheriff deputies, firefighters, and EMS personnel play a critical role in medicolegal death investigations. As “first responders,” the majority of time they are, in fact, the first officials at the scene in which a death or the incident ultimately resulting in death occurs. What they see, smell, hear, do, and document are critical pieces of information required for medicolegal death investigators (MDI) to accurately write the last chapter of someone’s life story.

First responders frequently interact with Medical Examiner/Coroner (ME/C) personnel either telephonically when reporting a death or in-person while at the scene after the MDI’s arrival. Despite the frequency of interaction, oftentimes there is confusion about the ME/C role and responsibilities. When reporting a death to the ME/C, have you said, “We have a pick up for you?” How many times have you said or heard someone say, “Why isn’t this a Coroner’s case?” or “Why isn’t the Medical Examiner responding?” or “What am I supposed to do with this body now?” or “Why is the Coroner asking me so many questions? Why don’t they just come out here and pick up this body?” or “Can you believe they want me to count the oxycodone pills? Can’t they come out and count them themselves?” or “What’s taking the Coroner so long to get here?” or “Why is the Medical Examiner upset that we towed the vehicles/removed the firearm from the scene prior to their arrival?”

This podcast provides all first responders an overview of medicolegal death investigation offices, functions, and jurisdiction; expectations when interacting with ME/C personnel, both during the death report and scene investigation; and a brief discussion of scene and body indicators of various types, causes, and manners of death.


Paul R. Parker III,   B.S., D-ABMDI

Parker Medicolegal Services, LLC

P.O. Box 20525

Fountain Hills, Arizona 85269

Telephone: 480-298-4981



About the Author
Darren is a 30 year veteran of law enforcement and criminal investigations. He currently serves as an investigator for the Crawford County Missouri coroner’s office. He holds credentials as an instructor for the Missouri Sheriff’s Training Academy, has served as president of the Missouri Medical Examiners and Coroners Association, and is certified and credentialed in numerous fields of investigation. He holds the position of lead instructor and facilitator for the Coroner Talk™ community as he speaks and writes in the area of death investigation and scene management.

2 comments on First on the Scene – Advance Responders

  1. Patrick McLaughlin says:

    I was wondering what the difference is between the coroner and the medical examiner. I have heard the coroner is the people who remove the body and the medical examiner is the doctor who does the actual autopsy. I understand that you are busy. If you don’t have time to answer, I understand. Thank you.

  2. Darren Dake says:


    That is a great question and one that varies a bit around the country. In short, yes a medical examiner is a doctor that does autopsy. However, in states that have a Coroner system, the coroner is the actual investigator (agency) who must investigate a death and is required by law to determine cause and manner of death – at times at the help of an autopsy. The Corner’s office may remove, or cause to be removed, the body but they are not simply a body removal service. For further on this topic I have included two links – one to a podcast and one to a short video. Please let me know if you have any further questions. I am never to busy to have a conversation…..

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