WASHINGTON (WUSA9) -- The family of a man who died after D.C. firefighters allegedly refused to treat him held a press conference with their attorney on Thursday morning.
The family of Medric Cecil Mills, Jr. and their attorney, Karen E. Evans of The Cochran Firm, D.C., held the conference 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," according to the firm.
The conference took place at the Brentwood Village Shopping Center on Rhode Island Avenue NE, the scene where Mills collapsed.
Medric Cecil Mills' daughter, Marie, talked to WUSA 9 last week. She said her father suffered from a massive heart attack on the sidewalk right across the street from a fire house on Rhode Island Avenue NE following failed attempts to get firefighters to help. Marie Mills says they were visiting a computer shop when her father collapsed.
"I stood on that corner and cried, 'Please help my dad. Please don't let my dad die.' When he wasn't getting up, my reaction was to go be with my dad," Marie Mills said last week.
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," said Mills.
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.
Thursday, the family called for the District of Columbia Fire and EMS employees who were involved in the mishandling of Mills' medical emergency to be fired. They 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, Medric's 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."
"The ambulance dispatchers sent to the scene when we first called went to the wrong address. You ought to know your city," Mills III said. "When a bystander shouted for help, the fire station employee just leaned against the fire truck. It was unbelievable."
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 Medric "Cecil" Mills was pronounced dead at MedStar Washington Hospital Center.
"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. When D.C. residents are suffering life threatening medical emergencies directly in front of fire stations and do not receive help, serious reform is needed. There must be change. We do not want this story to be swept away and forgotten by the public."
Attorney Karen E. Evans 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 calls a "pattern of negligent and poor treatment by D.C. emergency services." In 2010, Andre Rudder pounded on Engine 7 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.
Then, Evans says on New Year's Eve 2012, Durand A. Ford Sr. collapsed in his home and went into cardiac arrest. His family called 9-1-1 and reportedly waited 40 minutes for an ambulance to arrive. Evans says more than 50 firefighters reportedly said they suffered an illness that night. Ford died while waiting for the ambulance.
As for the Mills family, members have scheduled a candlelight vigil in Mills' memory at 7 p.m. Thursday at 1301 Rhode Island Ave. NE, where Mills suffered his medical emergency.
The family will establish a memorial fund to support their quest for reforms and to fulfill Mills' dream of paying for his youngest granddaughter's college education. Anyone interested in donating is asked to contact the Mills family at MillsFamilyFightForJustice@gmail.com.
An internal investigation is underway following the 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 an investigation, Lt. Kellene Davis, submitted resignation papers. As of January 31, The District's Public Safety office was trying to decide whether or not to accept Lt. Kellene Davis' resignation. We're told it takes 40 to 60 days for retirement papers to go through.
Davis also sent a letter to Fire Chief Kenneth Ellerbe, which was posted on the website Statter 911, that contains her account of what happened that day. In her letter, 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 also weighed in on the death. He says anyone responsible for Mill's death will be held accountable and he is awaiting the results of the investigation.
Deputy Mayor Paul Quander followed with a statement he released on Thursday following the family's press conference. The statement reads:
"Like the Mills family, I too have been deeply shocked, saddened and disappointed by what happened to Mr. Mills. Both Mayor Gray and Chief Ellerbe spoke with family members soon after their loss and expressed their sadness and disappointment.
The Mayor committed to a full and complete investigation. That investigation is ongoing and proceeding accordingly. Employees from multiple DC agencies have been interviewed, as well as citizens who were present. 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. We also must identify any gaps in our service delivery and/or policies so that we can make the necessary improvements.
Chief Ellerbe has enacted many reforms that allow FEMS to better respond to medical emergencies. He has presented additional reforms, accountabilities and advancements that are necessary, but have not been met with agreement. There has to be a collective approach between the Administration, Council and Labor to affect these changes. Nothing else is acceptable."