Disciplinary panel postpones hearing for D.C. firefighter accused of failing to help dying man

One of several D.C. firefighters accused of failing to help a dying man across the street from the station in January told investigators that he did not know someone was in need of immediate aid — a statement fire department officials later disputed.

The claim emerged from documents made public on Monday that describe administrative charges of misconduct filed against George Martin, a 12-year veteran who had been assigned to Truck 15 at the station in Northeast Washington. In those documents, Martin said he only knew that a cadet was looking for the station’s lieutenant, but he didn’t know why.

But two other firefighters told investigators that Martin was twice informed that a man later identified as Medric “Cecil” Mills Jr., 77, needed help, and that Martin did nothing. Fire officials say Martin omitted that from an official statement he gave three days after the incident.

“Martin showed virtually no concern for this patient,” the charging papers say. “Rather than initiate or make any attempt to initiate a response, Martin did absolutely nothing.”

The documents were released on a day when Martin was to have a disciplinary hearing in front of a panel in connection with the incident. The panel, which previously met in secret about the fate of the station’s lieutenant, Kellene Davis, is examining the conduct of firefighters who the department says ignored pleas from bystanders who had rushed to the station on Rhode Island Avenue after Mills fell at a shopping center across the street on Jan. 25. He later died of a heart attack.

Martin’s hearing was postponed at the request of his attorney, Philip Andonian. Officials did not say why, and the lawyer did not return calls seeking comment. A new date has not been set, but officials said it could be mid-June. Martin is accused of four counts of misconduct, including violating a provision that ensures firefighters “exert their greatest energy and full ability” to do their jobs “and not perform their duties in a spiritless, lax, surly, or careless manner.”

A fire cadet had told people who sought help that they would have to call 911 before anyone inside the station could respond. Mills was assisted only after a D.C. police officer flagged down a passing ambulance. A report condemned the actions of those staffing the station that day — including Martin, Davis, two other firefighters and a newly hired trainee on probation. All have been brought up on internal charges. Davis retired in April after her disciplinary hearing but before a decision had been announced. Hearings scheduled this week for the other firefighters have also been postponed.

Investigators have been trying to determine what happened inside that station when people sought help. The trainee has said that he looked for Davis and then summoned her using the station’s intercom system. He did not ring the emergency bell,which is required.

Fire officials say the trainee told another firefighter, who found Davis in her bunk room, which doubled as her office. The department says she demanded an exact address, and the firefighter left. That firefighter maintains that by then the call had been dispatched to another company and he considered the initial task competed. The department says Davis then sought out the firefighter and found him reading on a bunk bed.

In an interview last week, Davis denied many of the details and said that the firefighter who left to get the address saw almost immediately that Mills was being helped.

In his statement to investigators, Martin said that he twice heard the trainee call for the lieutenant over the intercom, and then overheard one firefighter tell another to check to see whether someone who was hurt had come to the station. He said he then went to the kitchen, where he later heard a call dispatched for Mills.

“Martin’s provision of misleading, inaccurate and incomplete information to superiors not only gives the false impression that he never received the report of a man down. . . but also constitutes both misfeasance and neglect of duty,” the charging report says.

The department says in the documents that once Martin heard another firefighter say that “rookie had a man down across the street,” he should have acted. The document also says that Martin brought “heightened, unnecessary national and international scrutiny of the department” that included calls for the fire chief and deputy mayor of public safety to resign.

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