Reporter questions DC chief Ellerbe about his call to rookie in center of investigation


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Reporter Paul Wagner, who broke the story about a DC Fire and EMS Department crew failing to help a dying man across the street from the firehouse, had an interesting question today for Chief Kenneth Ellerbe. Wagner wanted to know why Chief Ellerbe made a phone call to the probationary firefighter who is at the center of the investigation. Ellerbe admitted to making the call but told Wagner the call had nothing to do with the incident. Pressed further the chief called it a “private conversation”.

DC Ellerbe & Wagner

Also, a Facebook page was started on Tuesday called “Dcfems Chief must resign“. That I can see, there is no information who is behind the page.

DC Facebook page

In other developments, the family of Cecil Mills held a press conference this morning and the deputy mayor in  charge of the fire department issued a statement.

WTTG-TV/Fox 5:

The family of an elderly man who died after he suffered a heart attack across from a Washington, D.C. fire station broke their silence on Thursday.  During a press conference, Medric Cecil Mills’ family said they demand answers surrounding his death, and they called for action to be taken against those responsible.

Attorney Karen Evans joined Mills’ wife of 55 years, along with their daughter– who was with him when he died– and their son. She said D.C. Fire & EMS crews refused to help Mills when he collapsed— despite please from his daughter and witnesses at the scene.

Mills, 77, worked for the D.C. Parks and Recreation Department.   Evans said it’s especially tragic that emergency personnel failed to come to the aid of someone who gave so much to a city he loved.  She called his death “truly a tragedy.

“What happened here could happen to anyone,” Evans said, adding that his death should be seen as a call to arms.  “Change must come.  Real change.”

During the news conference, Evans cited previous investigations into D.C. Fire & EMS, citing cases that date back to 2007 involving negligence and poor treatment.

“Enough is enough.  It is time for real reform,” Evans said.

The Mills family is calling for D.C. city officials to change the current law to allow the District to truly be held accountable.  They are also interested in partnering with other families and organizations who share their goal, and anyone interested in joining them is asked to email them at [email protected].

When asked if the family plans to sue the city over Mills’ death, Evans said it was not an appropriate time to discuss legal action while the family continues to grieve his loss.

Mills’ son told reporters his father was more than just the man who collapsed outside the fire station across from the Brentwood Village Shopping Center.   He was a husband, father, grandfather, veteran, friend and role model to many– including many people who were strangers to him.

Mills’ son said his family appreciates the support they’ve received from the community so far, and also thanked the Metropolitan Police officer who helped his sister on the day his father died by waving down an ambulance and traveling with her to the hospital.

He said it was “extremely painful to think he would still be with us if he had been given proper care by firefighters.”

Mills son said his father was clearly in medical distress, and bystanders were screaming to firefighters for help.

“When a medical emergency happened on their doorstep, they ignored us.”

Now, Mills said his family demands answers from D.C. Fire & EMS, and they want someone to take responsibility for what happened.  He called it a public safety issue, and said his family calls for the naming and firing of all officials and employees who were involved in his father’s tragic death.

The Mills family will hold a vigil in his memory on Thursday night at 7 p.m. at the Brentwood Village Shopping Center where he collapsed.

After the press conference, Deputy Mayor Paul Quander released the following statement:

“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.”

Earlier this week, FOX 5 spoke with D.C. Chief Kenneth Ellerbe who called the response regretful and tragic.  In an interview with FOX 5’s Will Thomas on Tuesday night, Chief Ellerbe said he was sorry about what happened to Mills, a man he knew well. Ellerbe says he said as much to the Mills family and intends to hold people accountable for what happened.

Ellerbe stayed silent for 10 days and said nothing publicly about the tragic circumstances surrounding the death of the long-time D.C. government employee until he was stopped by FOX 5 outside a community meeting.

“I don’t want to paint the department with a broad brush because of this singular incident,” he said. “It’s a tragic incident and it’s something I wish had not happened and it is something we are investigating and we plan to conclude our investigation as quickly as possible.”

As FOX 5 first reported, the Mills family had a relationship with Chief Ellerbe. Mills’ son went to high school with him, and Marie Mills called the chief in the hours after her father’s death.

In the interview, the chief expanded on that relationship.

“I knew Mr. Mills. He was somebody that I knew well and she knows, I am sure, that I am sorry about what happened and regret that it occurred. We are an agency responsible for taking care of the city,” said Ellerbe.

The focus of the investigation is on the lieutenant in charge that afternoon.   Kellene Davis is on desk duty, along with another firefighter identified as G. Murphy.

In a letter to the chief, Davis threw Murphy under the bus and blamed the failure to cross the street to help Mills on him. A rookie, identified by sources, as Remy Jones, is the firefighter who heard the pleas for help.

He has been transferred, but remains on the job.

A separate investigation is being conducted by the Office of Unified Communications, which is trying to learn why an ambulance was sent to Northwest D.C. instead of Northeast D.C.

The family also has plans to establish a memorial fund to support the family’s quest for reforms and to fulfill Mr. Mills dream to help fund his youngest granddaughter’s college education. Members of the community who are interested should contact the Mills family at [email protected].

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