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Death of A Man Refused Help Outside DC Fire Station Ignites National Debate

Written by Featured Organization on 27 March 2014.

heart health by john travis holtWASHINGTON, DC – February 27, 2014 – Medric Cecil Mills, Jr. suffered a fatal heart attack directly across the street from District of Columbia Fire Engine House 26, while five fire and EMS Department personnel inside refused to provide medical assistance. The outrageous circumstances surrounding Mills’ tragic death has not only captured attention in the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area, but across the nation. On February 24, the D.C. Council’s Committee on Judiciary and Public Safety held an oversight hearing to review and discuss Mills’ death and the policies and procedures of D.C.’s Fire and Emergency Medical Services Department. 

 

“The tragic and avoidable death of Medric Cecil Mills, Jr. shows that the current status quo is not working and that procedural and legal change is required,” Karen Evans, partner with The Cochran Firm, D.C. and the Mills family’s attorney, said. “Yesterday's hearing will hopefully act as a catalyst for that change.” 

Mills’ son testified before the committee investigating the death of his father, which is lead by Council member Tommy Wells who is chairperson of the Judiciary and Public Safety Committee.

“What happened to my father is unacceptable on any level - procedurally, morally, or legally,” Mills son, Medric Cecil Mills, III, said during the hearing. “There must be a way to better balance a citizen's right to seek justice for an avoidable death and the government’s administration of the city.  We believe it is possible for the government to enact laws that protect citizens without interfering with the city’s function. It is time for change.”

The 911 audio and the internal report released Feb. 21 by the D.C. Office of the Deputy Mayor for Public Safety and Justice shed new and disturbing light on the shocking case. The Deputy Mayor’s report revealed outrageous negligence at Fire Engine House 26, whose firefighters failed to help Mills while he was experiencing a medical emergency. 

The report reveals that: 

• Five D.C. Fire and EMS employees were present in the fire station when bystanders pleaded for them to help Medric Cecil Mills, Jr.

• The firefighter working at the fire station’s watch desk placed two calls over the station’s Public Announcement (PA) system when he learned that Mills was suffering a medical emergency directly across the street from the fire station. 

• The Lieutenant Firefighter in who supervised the fire station failed to respond to both public announcements, which indicated that “[t]here’s a man across the street that needs help.”

• The firefighter working at the watch desk told a second firefighter about Mills’ medical emergency across the street from the fire station. In response, the second firefighter stated that they were not dispatched to the call.

• The second firefighter informed the Lieutenant what was happening. The Lieutenant asked for the exact address of the incident. The second firefighter did not obtain the exact address. Instead, the second firefighter subsequently gathered personal items and books from his car and went to his bunkroom to study while lying down in his bed.

• When the Lieutenant found the second firefighter studying a book lying down on his bed, the second firefighter stated that an ambulance had been dispatched to the scene but went to the wrong address, “but he thought it was alright since [the 911 dispatcher] had finally dispatched [the ambulance] to the correct address.”

• None of the five D.C. Fire and EMS employees in the fire station provided medical care to Mr. Mills when he suffered a fatal heart attack directly across the street from the fire station.

• The lieutenant in charge of the fire station did not update the fire station’s journal to reflect that citizens came to the station to report the incident or request medical assistance. The lieutenant also failed to inform her superior, the Battalion Fire Chief, of the incident. The Battalion Fire Chief only learned of the tragedy when EMS workers responding to the scene notified him.

• The fire station’s vocal alarm system was manually turned off and not functioning in the main bunkroom.

• The 911 call taker who answered the initial call failed to ask for a quadrant and improperly entered “NW” as the quadrant.

• The 911 call reveals that the caller immediately told the 911 call taker that the incident occurred in the Northeast quadrant. 

It is unclear whether the D.C. Council’s Feb. 24 hearing regarding the tragic circumstances surrounding Medric Cecil Mills, Jr.’s death will result in changes. The day after the hearing, Councilmember Tommy Wells Council called for Vince Gray to ask for the resignations of both D.C. Fire Chief Kenneth Ellerbe and his boss, Deputy Mayor for Public Safety Paul Quander. In a public statement, Wells said he was “stunned to learn” that Ellerbe and Quander had no plan to revamp the D.C. Fire and EMS Services Department.

About The Cochran Firm: 

Founded by legendary attorney Johnnie L Cochran, Jr., The Cochran Firm's Washington D.C. office has a team of seasoned attorneys who handle high-profile cases involving catastrophic personal injury, wrongful death, medical malpractice, nursing home abuse, sexual harassment, product liability, among other legal matters. 

About Karen E. Evans, Esq. 

Karen Evans is a litigator in The Cochran Firm’s Washington, D.C. office. Throughout her 23-year career as trial attorney, she has successfully prosecuted a wide variety of high-stakes litigation matters involving medical negligence and other catastrophic injuries. With an AV Preeminent rating, she has been awarded the highest level of professional ethics and excellence by Martindale-Hubbell Peer Review. She has been selected for inclusion in The Best Lawyers in America, Super Lawyers, The Bar Register of Preeminent Women Lawyers, The National Trial Lawyers, Top 100 Lawyers and the Washington Post, Baltimore and Washington D.C.’s Top Lawyers, among other honors. 

Website: CochranFirmDC.com

Twitter: @CochranFirmDC 

Facebook: facebook.com/TheCochranFirmDC