WASHINGTON – The firefighter in charge of a District fire station that didn’t assist a dying man has retired.
Lt. Kellene Davis submitted retirement papers in late January, but Chief Kenneth Ellerbe didn’t sign them until this month, shortly after the 60-day notice expired.
He did it reluctantly, knowing the fire department would not be able to hold Davis accountable for the tragedy outside Engine 26.
“It is unlikely that we could punish a retired employee,” Ellerbe says. But he says there wasn’t much of a choice. Davis met the criteria.
“By law, once the employee reaches retirement age and has put in the requisite time that makes them eligible to retire, we cannot decline or refuse their request for retirement,” Ellerbe says.
The timing only makes the retirement more troubling and will likely add fuel to the department’s critics.
The fire station Cecil Mills died in front of. (WTOP/Andrew Mollenbeck)
Davis had appeared before a disciplinary board in March. But her retirement comes before the trial board finishes and submits its recommendation to Ellerbe. “This is something I did not want to see,” Ellerbe says, speaking about the retirement coming prior to the trial board’s decision.
He calls the original lack of response at the fire station and the subsequent inability to hold the lieutenant accountable almost “infuriating.”
Firefighters working at her station did not aid Medric Cecil Mills Jr. who went into cardiac arrest in a parking lot across from the Northeast fire station on Jan. 25. Mills later died.
The Mills family called Davis’ retirement shocking. Five firefighters knew that Mills needed help across the street but none went to his aid, an internal fire department report found.
A cadet, who first learned that someone needed help, twice called for Davis to come to the watch desk but she did not respond, the report said.
Davis went before an administrative fire board in late March for charges related to the neglect of Mills. The hearing was closed to both the public, media and Mills’ family.
“This is yet another example demonstrating that the D.C. government and Fire and EMS Department does not care about its citizens,” the family says in a written statement. “We are angry and frustrated that the Trial Board has allowed the lieutenant, who did not do her job and whose inaction prevented a life from being saved, is allowed to retire with no adverse action being taken.”
The trial board has yet to submit its recommendation for Davis. The other four firefighters still face their own trial board hearings.