Family wants firefighters fired after not helping D.C. resident who had a heart attack.
WASHINGTON — The family of a man who died after Washington, D.C., firefighters allegedly refused to treat him called Thursday for the fire and EMS employees involved in the mishandling of the man's medical emergency to be fired.
During a news conference Thursday, the family of Medric Cecil Mills Jr., along with their attorney, Karen E. Evans of The Cochran Firm, D.C., wanted to bring attention to "the unconscionable treatment of the 77-year-old Washington, D.C., resident and longtime employee of the Department of Parks and Recreation."
On Jan. 25, Mills suffered a massive heart attack on the sidewalk across the street from a fire house. Mills' daughter, Marie, said she attempted numerous times to get firefighters to help.
When she begged a firefighter to come help she got no response, she said.
"He just leaned up against the fire engine with his arms folded the entire time. I can't get that image out of my head," Marie Mills said last week.
Strangers ran across the street to the fire house multiple times, but were told various excuses and that they needed to call 911, which they had.
On Thursday, the family also asked for changes in the law that protect D.C.'s government agencies from civil accountability as well as encouraged others to speak out against poor treatment.
"We have been profoundly shocked by the manner of his passing," said Medric Mills III, Mills' son in a written statement. "It is extremely painful to think that my dad could still be with us if he had been given the proper care by firefighters when he suffered a medical emergency. When my dad suffered a heart attack, there were firefighters in that station across the street. He was in clear medical distress. Bystanders were screaming for help. Firefighters are provided training to respond to medical emergencies. But when a medical emergency happened right on their doorstep, they ignored us."
Marie Mills claims minutes passed before a nearby police officer waved down an ambulance that was passing by the scene. The family later found out that Mills was pronounced dead at a hospital.
"The D.C. Fire and EMS Department has proven that it cannot hold itself to an acceptable standard on its own," Marie Mills said in a written statement. "There must be accountability."
Evans, the family attorney, said the firefighters had a moral and ethical obligation to help Mills. "They had EMS rescue equipment at that fire station, and they could have used a defibrillator on him," Evans said. "How could a firefighter see a man in medical distress lying on the ground and not run to help him? What's shocking is there seems to be a growing pattern of apathy for people who are in dire need of emergency care."
Evans outlined what she said is a "pattern of negligent and poor treatment by D.C. emergency services."
In 2010, Andre Rudder pounded on a fire station's door because he was suffering chest pains, but an emergency medical technician did not help him and turned him away. Rudder died outside the fire station. A wrongful death case, Moses v. District of Columbia Government, was dismissed in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia in September 2010.
Evans also cited an incident on New Year's Eve 2012 when Durand A. Ford Sr. collapsed in his home and went into cardiac arrest. His family called 911 and reportedly waited 40 minutes for an ambulance to arrive. Evans said more than 50 firefighters reportedly said they suffered an illness that night. Ford died while waiting for the ambulance, she said.
An internal investigation is underway after last month's incident. Two firefighters, including the lieutenant in charge at the time of the incident, were placed on paid administrative leave.
The fire lieutenant at the center of the investigation, Lt. Kellene Davis, submitted resignation papers. As of Jan. 31, the District's Public Safety office was trying to decide whether or not to accept the resignation. It takes 40 to 60 days for retirement papers to go through.
Davis also sent a letter to Fire Chief Kenneth Ellerbe that contains her account of what happened that day. In her letter, which was posted on Statter 911, Davis writes that the firefighter had less than two months on the job and that he had "Informed me that someone had slipped and fallen across the street." She claims she asked him to "get an address." Later, she looked for him and "found him lying in his bed." According to Davis, "He failed to follow a verbal order and provided a false statement."
D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray has said anyone responsible for Mills' death will be held accountable and he is awaiting the results of the investigation.
In response to the family's news conference Thursday, Deputy Mayor Paul Quander issued a statement that the investigation is ongoing.
"As much as everyone would like to see disciplinary action quickly taken against any city employee whose conduct was less than what we demand from our public safety workers, an impartial investigation must be completed before we can fully understand the facts of what happened and properly hold accountable those who deserve it," the statement read in part.