A disciplinary hearing for one of five D.C. firefighters accused of failing to help a dying man outside a District firehouse concluded Friday, although the trial board has not yet announced a decision and could take up to a week to release its decision.
Lt. Kellene Davis, a 28-year veteran of the D.C. Fire and Emergency Medical Services Department who has submitted her retirement papers, faces six administrative counts of neglect of duty stemming from the Jan. 25 death of Medric “Cecil” Mills Jr., who collapsed in a parking lot across the street from Davis’s firehouse in Northeast Washington. Although witnesses ran across Rhode Island Avenue to the station pleading for assistance, none of the five firefighters on duty responded. Mills died later that day at a local hospital.
The aftermath of Mills’s death has generated widespread calls for reform in the D.C. fire department, including an oversight hearing convened by the public safety committee of the D.C. Council and an investigative report released by Deputy Mayor of Public Safety Paul A. Quander Jr.
Davis’s hearing, which lasted six hours Wednesday and several hours Friday, included testimony from more than a dozen witnesses. The four-member trial board, comprising two battalion chiefs and two captains, voted to close the hearing to the public, and no members of the media were allowed to watch the proceedings. Trial boards, as the hearings are called, may be handled like trials but are not subject to the District’s open-meeting laws.
Once the decision is released, Fire Chief Kenneth B. Ellerbe has the right to accept the proposed discipline, lower it or refuse it altogether, but he cannot increase any penalties.
Friday’s hearing largely consisted of testimony from nearly two dozen additional witnesses, mostly police and fire officials, as well as closing statements from both sides. And the day was not without its drama. Mills’s daughter, Marie Mills, and her attorney tried to attend the hearing but were denied entry.
“I am frustrated, angry and disappointed that no one is being held accountable,” Mills said. “I don’t understand why the hearing is being held in secret. My family is following the rules and trying to allow the process to work but we have lost confidence in the process.”
On her way out of the hearing, Davis spoke publicly for the first time, although she did not answer any direct questions about her role in the incident.
“I haven’t had the opportunity to express my heartfelt and deepest condolences to the Mills family and also in no way did refuse to help Mr. Mills in any way,”she said. “By the time I was aware he was having difficulty, help was on the way.”
Donna Rucker, who represented Davis during the proceedings, told reporters as she left that Davis “had to come here to defend these charges. . . . It was very critical for her to present her case to the trial board and to make them aware of what she understood at the time.”
Disciplinary action for the other four firefighters involved in the Mills’s case has not been decided, said department spokesman Tim Wilson. Three of the four remaining firefighters could go before trial boards, while a probationary firefighter, Remy Jones, would instead face summary judgment from an assistant fire chief.