Four at D.C. call center are penalized after death of man who collapsed near firehouse

June 16, 2014

Four city employees at the District’s 911 call center have been penalized in connection with the case of the man who died earlier this year after collapsing across the street from a firehouse.

The workers in the city’s Office of Unified Communications appear to be the first city employees formally punished in connection with the Jan. 25 death of Medric Mills Jr. A lead dispatcher was suspended for 10 days, two radio operators for three days each, and a call-taker for three days.

All suspensions were without pay, and each has been completed, said Wanda Gattison, a spokeswoman for the office.

The suspensions come as a disciplinary hearing for one of several D.C. firefighters accused of failing to help Mills in January is to begin Tuesday. Two other firefighters face hearings on Friday and next week. The hearings had been rescheduled from last month and could result in the firefighters losing their jobs.

Mills, 77, collapsed across the street from a firehouse on Rhode Island Avenue in Northeast Washington. At least two people came to the firehouse to get help for Mills but were told to call 911.

Firefighters from another location were dispatched, but they were sent to the wrong address. And questions have been raised about responses to a computer that recommended the dispatch of firefighters from Truck 15 at the Rhode Island Avenue station to aid Mills.

The computer reportedly was overruled at the dispatch center because the emergency called for an advanced life support paramedic, and Truck 15’s crew was trained only in basic life support.

Eventually, a police officer at the scene flagged down a passing ambulance.

According to the communications office, the four workers were found “at fault” in connection with the incident.

The firefighters still facing hearings are George Martin, a 12-year veteran, Garrett Murphy and David Dennis. Remy Jones, a probationary firefighter who first spoke to the people seeking help for Mills, could have his fate decided by the department’s interim chief, Eugene Jones, who takes over July 2 after the departure of Kenneth B. Ellerbe. A probationary firefighter can be fired at any time.

Martin’s hearing is scheduled for Tuesday.

Peter Hermann contributed to this report.

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