The fire cadet who did not help a dying man on Jan. 25 said he did not know how to respond if someone approached a firehouse and asked for help, according to an internal affairs report.
The revelation comes more than a month after 77-year-old Medric “Cecil” Mills Jr. collapsed of a heart attack across the street from Engine 26 in Northeast Washington and later died. Onlookers ran to seek help at the firehouse, but none of the five firefighters on duty there, assigned to Truck 15, responded to their pleas.
A public report issued last week by Deputy Mayor of Public Safety Paul Quander did not include cadet Remy Jones’s statement that he was unprepared to provide support and worried about losing his job if he ran across the street to help.
Quander’s spokesman said city officials are aware of the report. “An internal affairs report is just that: internal. Some of the details in a lengthy agency report were not included by Deputy Mayor Quander in his public report of his investigation into Medric Mills’ death,” said Keith St. Clair, spokesman for the deputy mayor. “Like any plaintiff or prosecutor, not all the details in a case are made public in advance of trial. Our approach to this matter has been meticulous and methodical. A balance must be struck between the dissemination of information to the public and the due process rights of employees.”
WTTG (Fox 5) obtained the internal affairs report and shared excerpts with The Washington Post. The Post verified that the excerpts were authentic.
Reached by phone late Thursday night, Jones referred questions to the fire department’s internal affairs unit, saying he would “get in trouble” if he spoke about his actions. He also criticized the Post for continuing to report on the incident.
“Every day is a new day,” he said. “I don’t understand why there is public interest in this. Why haven’t you found a new story?”
He said that he has become “emotionally disturbed” because of the media’s calls and visits to his family’s home.
“I am a firefighter,” he said. “I have duties.”
The events of Jan. 25 were the subject of a lengthy oversight hearing Monday held by the D.C. Council's public safety committee, which included testimony by Quander and Chief Kenneth B. Ellerbe of D.C. Fire and Emergency Medical Services.
The Washington Post previously reported that Jones, who graduated in November with his cadet class, ran into problems at the training academy. Two supervisors documented his poor attitude and disrespect for fellow cadets and the chain of command, according to internal reports obtained by The Washington Post.
The cadet program has become a key initiative during Ellerbe’s three-year tenure. He resurrected and supported the program, which recruits recent graduates from D.C. high schools, after previous fire chief Dennis Rubin canceled it because of concerns about the quality of the candidates and the standards of their training.
At Engine 26, Jones was sitting at the watch desk, a firehouse role typically assigned to rookies . Responsibilities include helping the public and ringing the firehouse bell in an emergency. He did not ring the bell, he told internal affairs investigators, because he mistakenly thought it only could be rung at night.
In the internal report, Jones said someone approached the desk and told him that a man had slipped on some ice across the street and passed out. Jones later said he alerted his supervisor, Lt. Kellene Davis, to report to the watch desk, but she did not respond. Davis was put on administrative leave and has since put in her retirement papers, but she faces a trial board hearing next week.
Another firefighter, Garrett Murphy, responded to Jones’s PA system call for help, but also did not cross the street to assist, according to the report. Murphy has said in the past that he could not comment on the January incident.
Jones remains on duty but has been transferred to another firehouse. Murphy has been placed on administrative leave.
According to the internal report, Jones said that he “did not know what to do,” which was why he called his supervisor for help.
“Probationer/Firefighter Jones related that if anyone on the apparatus had run along with him, he would have had a little more leeway because they have power and as a probationer he did not and could get fired,” according to the internal report.
Karen Evans, an attorney for the Mills family, said late Thursday she was troubled by the findings.
“If you’re working at a watch desk, it is patently obvious that you should know how to respond when a member of the public approaches your fire station requesting urgent medical assistance,” Evans said. “If you don’t know how to do this, then you shouldn’t work the watch desk.”
Peter Hermann contributed to this report.