D.C. police asked fire department dispatchers to send an ambulance for a man they believed was dying on the scene of a restaurant robbery, but the ambulance dispatcher told them that no medical unit was available, police and fire officials confirmed yesterday.
Instead, the ambulance dispatcher said he would " . . . see if I can send him an engine company. They can wash up the blood. You know what, I ain't got nobody to send but an engine company."
The victim, manager of the Holly Farms Fried Chicken restaurant at 5120 Nannie Helen Burroughs Ave. NE, who was later found to have been shot in the heart, lay on the floor of the restaurant and in the back of a police cruiser for more than 20 minutes until an ambulance arrived. He died about five hours later at Prince George's General Hospital.
D.C. Police Chief Maurice Turner and Fire Chief Theodore Coleman have ordered investigations into how their departments responded.
Police have said they asked the fire department for an ambulance and were told none was available, and fire officials have said that they were never told the victim was shot and therefore "didn't put much of a priority on it."
According to tape recorded communications between police department and fire department dispatchers, a partial transcript of which was aired by WRC-TV (Channel 4) Thursday night, a police dispatcher told an ambulance dispatcher that "They [officers] believe he is expiring on the scene."
The ambulance dispatcher replied: "Oh my God. The best thing I can do, see if I can send him an engine company. They can wash up the blood. You know what, I ain't got nobody to send but an engine company."
"What, no medic unit?" the police dispatcher asked.
"Nope," the ambulance dispatcher responded. "All of them taken with these overdoses."
Fire Chief Coleman refused to comment on the transcript yesterday and referred all questions to spokesman Ray Alfred, who confirmed the accuracy of the transcript and said that fire department tapes contain the exchange.
Alfred reiterated that the fire department was never told by police dispatchers that the man had been shot and said that a full transcript of the communications between police and fire department communications divisions should be reviewed before laying fault.
He declined to release any transcripts of the tapes while an investigation is under way.
In an interview earlier this week, when asked if he was "splitting hairs" over what the fire department knew of the man's injuries and when they knew it, Alfred said he was not.
Yesterday, Alfred said he stood by that belief. "They [police] knew [the man had been shot] when they called us and they didn't tell us. That's not splitting hairs."
Alfred said that police should have been more specific. "Because the police tell us [they think the man might be dying], that doesn't say anything to us.
However, one police official said, "You cannot always determine the nature of an injury or how a person came to be injured, but you can determine the urgency of the need for an ambulance."
Police learned of the April 6 robbery at the restaurant when the manager, Timothy L. Kemp, 32, of 3752 First St. SE., phoned from the store at 3:21 p.m. However, police sources said, Kemp did not say that he had been shot.
According to a statement released by Turner earlier this week, officers arrived on the scene in about two minutes and requested an ambulance at 3:25 p.m. At about 3:26 the officers told police dispatchers that it appeared Kemp had been stabbed, and "a short time later . . . a correction was made stating the victim had been shot instead of stabbed and the ambulance was needed immediately," Turner's statement said.
According to the transcript obtained by WRC, at about 3:32 police dispatchers informed the fire department that officers on the scene thought Kemp might be dying, and when it appeared an ambulance would be delayed, they radioed for a D.C. police helicopter at 3:34 p.m.
Kemp was taken by police cruiser five blocks to Woodson Senior High School, where the helicopter was supposed to land and take him to a hospital. As the police cruiser was pulling away from the restaurant about 3:40 p.m., a fire department ambulance arrived and followed it to the high school.
Once there, it was learned that the helicopter was still on the ground at National Airport, and fire department paramedics transferred Kemp to their ambulance and drove him to Prince George's General Hospital, arriving at 3:51 p.m.
The police department helicopter arrived at Woodson High about five minutes after the ambulance left, witnesses and police sources said. Police are investigating what caused the delay, and yesterday submitted a report on the incident to Mayor Marion Barry.
D.C. City Council member Wilhelmina Rolark (D-Ward 8), chairman of the judiciary committee, said yesterday that she may establish an oversight committee to look into the incident.
And, D.C. City Council member H.R. Crawford (D-Ward 7) yesterday asked Mayor Barry for a full investigation into the incident.