DC police sergeant who entered force ‘to make a difference’ pulls older man from burning building

Fourth District MPD officers who responded to the fire, left to right: Officer Domond, Sergeant Robinson, Officer Taylor, Master Patrol Officer Mason. (Courtesy DC Fire EMS)

The teamwork of police officers noticing something was wrong, investigating, calling for help and then springing into action resulted in two older D.C. residents being removed from a burning home in Northwest D.C.

“I know I was scared. I do know that,” Sgt. Mocte’Ma Robinson of the Fourth District Station said of last week’s incident.

“If you watch the video, you can see where I kind of went in and — the smoke hit me — and I came back out and I was like, ‘OK, get it together, girl go in there.’ So yeah, it was scary,” she said.

As she heard a man screaming, “Help me up, help me out please,” Robinson said the smoke was so thick that she couldn’t see him or breathe well, but followed the sound to finally find him. She’s grateful he was on the first floor, so she didn’t have to go upstairs. With some help, she and others were able to lift him to take him out to the fresh air.

Asked how she described what happened to her family and her mom, Robinson said, “Maybe my mother was watching down on me and being very proud of this moment. She’s not here with us any longer.”

Her husband and children had a different take.

“They were kind of like — ‘Eeerrrr, are you crazy? Were you trained to go in fires?’ I’m like — no,” she said. “But when you hear someone scream for help, I think it’s only the human thing, the right thing to do is to go help. I want to be able to sleep at night, and I wouldn’t have been able to sleep if I didn’t go into that house, and something would have happened to those people.”

Robinson is a 21-year veteran of the Metropolitan Police Department.

As a child, she first wanted to be an actress, then a lawyer, but said in the 1990s, she didn’t see many faces that looked like hers.

“I decided I wanted to be a police officer to make a difference. They had faces that look like mine,” Robinson said.

She’s grateful both of the home’s older residents were evacuated. They were taken to the hospital to be treated for smoke inhalation.

The fire started in the hours before dawn. An officer patrolling his beat smelled smoke, followed the odor about four blocks and ended up on Rittenhouse Street Northwest near 7th Street after 4 a.m. He called for help over the radio, and Robinson and other officers responded.

“I just want to thank my officers … because they did an outstanding job. If the MPO (Master Patrol Officer) was not aware, in smelling smoke, we might not have been there. As a matter of fact, I know we wouldn’t have been there. There was no call for service for a fire. So he did an outstanding job locating that house,” Robinson said, referencing MPO Mason.

Despite the circumstances, Robinson said she’s doesn’t feel like a hero.

“I just felt like I did what I was supposed to do — my job,” she said. “And as a police officer, you never know what that’s going to entail from one tour to the next or one call from the next.”

Reflecting on what she might say to young women considering what path to take in life or what to choose for a career?

“I think we need more strong women in law enforcement,” Robinson said.

Kristi King

Kristi King is a veteran reporter who has been working in the WTOP newsroom since 1990. She covers everything from breaking news to consumer concerns and the latest medical developments.

Like WTOP on Facebook and follow @WTOP on Twitter to engage in conversation about this article and others.

Get breaking news and daily headlines delivered to your email inbox by signing up here.

© 2021 WTOP. All Rights Reserved. This website is not intended for users located within the European Economic Area.

More from WTOP

Log in to your WTOP account for notifications and alerts customized for you.

Sign up