Gymnasium will be named for Medric Mills Jr., who died after firefighters dawdled


A news conference is held across from D.C. Engine Company 26 in reaction to the death of 77-year-old Medric Cecil Mills Jr. on Feb. 6. (Melina Mara/The Washington Post)

Updated 5 p.m. with family statement

The memory of Medric “Cecil” Mills Jr., the 77-year-old District resident who died after firefighters failed to respond when he collapsed across the street from their firehouse, will be commemorated not far from where he lived in Northeast Washington.

Mayor Vincent C. Gray said during a television interview Thursday that the gymnasium at the North Michigan Park Recreation Center will be named for Mills, who suffered a heart attack Jan. 28 outside a Rhode Island Avenue NE shopping mall and later succumbed after waiting 23 minutes for an ambulance to arrive.

Mills, who lived on Hamilton Street NE, a few blocks away from the rec center, worked for the D.C. Department of Parks and Recreation for more than four decades, right up until his death.

“We don’t want him to be forgotten, because he was such an important part of the District government for so many years, but we also don’t want this situation to be forgotten,” Gray said on NewsChannel 8. “We hope this never happens again.”

Mills’s son, Medric Mills III, said he was at Canaan Baptist Church on June 1 when Gray first announced the gym renaming. The younger Mills and his sister have been deeply critical of the fire department’s response to their ailing father; he referred comment to the family’s attorney, Karen E. Evans.

Evans provided this statement:

Naming a city gymnasium after Medric Cecil Mills, Jr. is an appropriate manner to honor his legacy of 47 years of service to the District and the family appreciates the planned recognition.

However, this gesture will not bring back Mr. Mills, who died unnecessarily when firefighters/EMTs under Mayor Gray’s watch affirmatively refused to help Mr. Mills as he suffered a medical emergency across the street from a D.C. fire station.

Nor does this gesture address the public safety concerns raised by the callous and deliberate indifference shown by the D.C. Fire Department firefighters/EMTs and communications employees. This gesture falls short and fails to satisfy the Mills family’s quest to hold the District and DC FEMS accountable for its failures that caused the death of their patriarch.

Gray’s public announcement of the gym naming comes amid disciplinary proceedings against some of the firefighters accused of dereliction in the Mills case. Those hearings have been closed to the public.

Mike DeBonis covers local politics and government for The Washington Post. He also writes a blog and a political analysis column that runs on Fridays.
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