City Report Blasts D.C. Fire/EMS Personnel for Resident's Death

Barrington M. Salmon | 2/22/2014, 12:29 p.m.
The Office of the Deputy Mayor for Public Safety released a blistering report Friday detailing the multiple failings of D.C. ...
Sandra Mills (right), wife of Medric Cecil Mills, listens as attorney Karen Evans addresses the media during a Feb. 6 press conference at the same site where Mills died after suffering a massive heart attack in the shopping plaza across from a D.C. firehouse. Firefighters from Truck Company 15 stationed at the house refused to come to his aid despite repeated pleas, citing protocol. Photo by Khalid Naji-Allah

The Office of the Deputy Mayor for Public Safety released a blistering report Friday detailing the multiple failings of D.C. firefighters at a Rhode Island Avenue station and dispatchers that resulted in the death of an elderly resident.

A fire crew at Engine House 26 and individuals attached to the dispatch unit — nine employees in all — faces a disciplinary panel and sanctions because of their actions on Jan. 25, according to the findings of the 13-page report.

On that afternoon, 77-year-old Medric Cecil Mills Jr., collapsed after suffering a heart attack at Brentwood Shopping Center, directly across the street from Engine 26 in Northeast. Despite repeated attempts by family members and bystanders to get someone from the fire station to assist, none of the five fire personnel responded.

Mills subsequently died at the Washington Hospital Center.

According to Deputy Mayor Paul Quander Jr. in the report, there were “substantial lapses in judgment and the failure to adhere to established policy and procedures.”

The report offered a timeline of poor, judgment, missteps and errors that resulted in Mills’ death.

Quander recommends several remedies to ensure that this type of incident doesn’t recur.

The report says that Lt. Kellene L. Davis, the officer in charge, failed to respond to two requests to come to the watch desk because of an urgent matter. A firefighter on probation was told to get an address, which he did. But ultimately none of the five individuals at the station house went across the street to provide medical care to Mills.

The report says Davis didn’t enter into a log that bystanders sought help and she also failed to notify the battalion fire chief of the incident.

Davis, a 30-year veteran and the ranking officer at the station, has been placed on administrative leave with pay.

Additionally, neither the 911 call taker, the lead fire dispatcher, nor two EMS radio operators noticed that the address was incorrect, sending the responding ambulance to the wrong quadrant.

One person has already been charged and is scheduled to appear before the trial board on March 4. The D.C. Office of the Attorney General will represent the agency in this matter. Charges against the other members are pending.

Four employees of the Office of Unified Communications have been recommended for disciplinary action. The employees in question will have the opportunity to respond to the charges against them. D.C. Personnel Rules and applicable laws mandate that discipline must be progressive in nature. The employees’ prior work and disciplinary history must be taken into account when recommending disciplinary sanctions. The recommendation, along with the employee’s response, is then provided to an impartial decision maker within the agency. Therefore, the supervisor and subordinates are facing the same disciplinary process under the terms of the collective bargaining agreement.

The probationary employee is subject to normal disciplinary rules for DC probationary employees.

The fire department's trial board, consisting of two battalion fire chiefs and two captains, will hear the evidence, issue findings of fact, determine guilt or innocence of the employee, and make a penalty recommendation to the fire chief, ranging from reprimand to termination.