Firefighter in D.C. Patient Death Case Heads Back to Academy

The probationary firefighter who was initially blamed when an elderly man died after being denied treatment near a D.C. fire station has been ordered to undergo remedial training, according to a department spokesman.

Remy Jones, who was just two months out of the academy when the incident involving Medric “Cecil” Mills Jr. occurred in January, also was ordered suspended without pay for one 24-hour shift, said the spokesman, Timothy Wilson. Jones is the last of five firefighters to be disciplined in connection with Mills’s death.

The 77-year-old collapsed of an apparent heart attack near the fire station on Rhode Island Avenue in Northeast. As his daughter held him, bystanders rushed to the station, but Jones told them firefighters couldn’t respond until someone called 911 and they were dispatched. A D.C. police officer flagged down a passing ambulance, but Mills died hours later at a hospital.

FRM/FFN D.C. Patient Death Coverage

The ensuing uproar of Mills’s death sparked a review that found lax discipline and complacency in the station, and blame shifted from the young Jones to others, including Lt. Kellene Davis, the station’s highest-ranking firefighter, and a firefighter who retired to his bunk to read instead of helping.

District officials promised the Mills family a thorough and transparent investigation. But disciplinary hearings were secret and the Mills family, along with the District’s mayor, said the independent boards meted out punishment that was too light. Davis was allowed to retire before she could be demoted, and the firefighter who read his book was suspended for 60 hours without pay. Another was given a reprimand, and a third was cleared.

FRM/FFN: Disciplinary Actions Released in Case of D.C. Patient Death; Fire Chief Says Not Serious Enough

Jones, assigned that day to the Watch Desk, told investigators that he did not know how to respond when people came to the fire station seeking help. Instead of sounding a general alarm, he tried to page Davis over the intercom. She said she never heard the page. Other firefighters blamed miscommunication, and Jones said another firefighter told him he couldn’t help Mills without being dispatched.

Because Jones had not yet passed probation, he was not subject to the same disciplinary process as the other firefighters, who are under a labor union and were afforded hearings. Jones’s punishment was at the discretion of the District’s interim fire chief, Eugene A. Jones, who took over in July. The two are not related. The chief has said previously he believed the probationary firefighter was the “least culpable.”

Remy Jones, who did not return calls seeking comment on Friday, graduated with Cadet Class 15 in November. Since 1986, more than 350 high school graduates have gone through the cadet program, which was mired in trouble in the early 2000s and eventually canceled in 2008. Then-Chief Kenneth B. Ellerbe restarted the program in 2011 and brought in dozens of young firefighters.

The Washington Post previously reported that Jones had been counseled for poor attitude and misbehavior during his time at the academy, including an incident in October when he locked a fellow cadet outside in the rain, documents show. Two supervisors recommended a written reprimand, but none was given.

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