Mills family says DC fire chief should be held accountable – Read report released in death across street from firehouse

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Read full report from Deputy Mayor Paul Quander

In the news story above, Marie Mills told WRC-TV/News 4 reporter Shomari Stone she thought Chief Kenneth Ellerbe’s name should be in the report released today investigating the death of her 77-year-old father Cecil. When asked if Ellerbe should be fired, Ms. Mills answered, “If I didn’t do my job I’d be fired”.  Marie Mills talked about accountability in her interview.

Deputy Mayor Paul Quander replied to questions about accountability and Chief Ellerbe by saying, “This isn’t about Chief Ellerbe. He wasn’t at the firehouse door when someone came asking for help”.

More coverage of today’s developments below.

WTTG-TV/ Fox 5:

D.C. released a report Friday afternoon on the investigation into the death of Cecil Mills, the elderly man who died after suffering a heart attack across the street from a fire station in northwest Washington back in January.

The D.C. Fire & EMS Department and the Office of Unified Communications released their report detailing the response.  The report details a timeline of events that took place on the date of the incident.  Mills collapsed on Saturday, January 25 at about 2:44 p.m. in the shopping center’s parking lot.  A 911 call was made by a shopkeeper, and it was assigned to northwest.  The caller immediately corrected the call taker, however, clarifying that their location was in northeast D.C.  Emergency crews responded to the Northeast DC address instead.


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Along with a call to 911, passers-by tried to help by going to the fire station across the street to ask for help.  Five firefighters were inside during the emergency, and the report confirms that all of them were aware of a medical issue that required assistance, but no one took action.

According to the report, the firefighters and four OUC employees involved have been recommended for disciplinary action, whic can range from reprimand to dismissal.

The report says the DC Fire & EMS employees will go before the Fire Trial Board, a panel consisting of two battalion fire chiefs and two captains.  The board will hear evidence and determine their guilt or innocence, and make a penalty recommendation to the fire chief.  The report says one member has already and will appear before the trial board on March 4.

In addition, four OUC employees have been recommended for disciplinary action. Several recommendations have been made for OUC dispatcher protocol going forward.  They include:

  • Verifying the address with the responding unit over the radio, and they’ll be required to repeat the address back to the dispatcher.
  • Additional training for OUC employees that focuses on improving communciation to the assigned units from dispatchers.
  • Dispatchers will be responsible for orally checking the status of any unit that takes more than two minutes to leave a station, and eight minutes to respond to a call.
  • Review of the entire dispatch process

“As an agency tasked with handling 1.4 million 911 calls annually, we recognize the monumental responsibility of ensuring that each one is handled with the utmost attention to detail,” said OUC Director Jennifer Greene in the report.  “We are committed to providing the superior service that District residents deserve.”

Changes for D.C. Fire & EMS include additional training, and adopting a policy that places greater emphasis on responding to non-dispatched requests for help.    They will offer simulator refresher training.  Memorandums have been issued to employees instructing them to offer help whenever possible, regardless of whether they have been dispatched.  A second memorandum was issued reminding crews not to turn off the PA system in various rooms of their fire stations before 10 p.m. so that announcements can be heard clearly.  Finally, a memorandum has been issued reminding employees to properly monitor their radio devices constantly because of potential changes to their assignments.

“Our members have a duty to respond and protect the lives of those who request their assistance,” said DCFEMS Chief Kenneth B. Ellerbe in the report. “We will continue to improve our methods and uphold our responsibility to serve District residents and visitors.”

Mills’ family has spoken out, saying they demand answers as to why D.C. Fire & EMS refused to help him after he collapsed across from the Brentwood Village Shopping Center, despite please from his daughter and witnesses at the scene.  They have called for D.C. officials to be held accountable.

Since then, the lieutenant in charge of that firehouse, Kellene Davis, submitted her retirement papers, two firefighters are on paid leave, and a rookie firefighter has been reassigned.

Mills, 77, worked for the D.C. Parks and Recreation Department.  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.

Peter Hermann, The Washington Post:

Five District firefighters and four emergency dispatchers should be disciplined for failing to help an elderly man who collapsed outside a firehouse and later died from an apparent heart attack, according to an internal investigation.

Authorities also said they are working on improvements to ensure a similar incident does not happen again. The report, released Friday afternoon, was supervised by Paul A. Quander Jr., the District’s deputy mayor for public safety.

The report did not specify what the disciplinary actions would be. But it found that all five firefighters with Truck 15 on Rhode Islande Ave, NE “were aware of a medical issue in which assistance was requested, however none took any action to provide assistance.”


The report was issued Friday by the city’s deputy mayor for public safety. It says one firefighter is already facing internal charges, and charges are pending against three others. A probationary firefighter also faces discipline.

The report also recommends discipline for four employees at the city’s 911 call center for their roles in sending an ambulance to the wrong address.


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