Family says man died of asthma attack after padlock kept EMTs out of complex

It's been a rough couple of days for Matthew Hawkins Jr.'s family, ever since the 60-year-old man died from an apparent asthma attack.

The family had been concerned about the fact that since the beginning of extensive renovations at the Cleme Manor Apartments about 10 months ago, access to the apartments has been difficult because of locked gates.

The family says this weekend all but one at the complex were locked.

"Yes we were worried about it. We were worried about it on the 20th, we were worried about this last month and the month before that. January too!" said his sister Deborah Combs.

Saturday night, their worst fears came true.  Matthews's asthma attack was more severe than usual and his family called paramedics. They say the ambulance entered the complex but in the darkness and with the maze of construction fencing and equipment the paramedics couldn't get close to the Hawkins' unit in time.

"When they arrived, they had to go all the way to get to us.  They called another EMS truck out with wire cutters to get into the gate to get to us and they worked on him but they couldn't save him," says Combs.

She says despite their efforts Matthew died on the floor of his mother's apartment.

Management here didn't want to discuss why Saturday night all but the back gate was locked and told us to leave the property.   We contacted the New York-based company that owns the apartment complex.   The person I spoke to there told us it's not the policy to have all but one gate locked and they are looking into the situation. While they do they do, Hawkins' family is preparing to bury him.

"Now we are making funeral arrangement, and that's not easy. Not easy for someone you love," says Combs.

When we arrived, we saw the main gate padlocked but it has since been removed. A spokesperson for the Houston Fire Department, which oversees the paramedics, tells us the department  will be investigating the incident. The city is investigating as well. Executives from the New York based company that owns the apartment complex say someone will visit here on Thursday. We'll continue to dig for answers while Matthew Hawkins' family makes those funeral arrangements.