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Family Suing DC After Man Died Across The Street From Fire Station

The family of a man who died across the street from a District of Columbia fire station last year is now suing the city’s fire department in a wrongful death lawsuit claiming a “culture of carelessness” at the department.

Relatives of Cecil Mills filed the suit Tuesday and are asking for $7.7 million from the city in damages, WUSA 9 reported.

Mills, 77, had been a city government employee before the January 2014 incident, when he collapsed in front a fire station in Northeast D.C. Family members and bystanders ran to the nearby fire station, but instead of helping, the firefighters inside turned them away.

They were told that the firefighters could not respond to the emergency until someone called 911 to file a report. A passing ambulance eventually stopped to help Mills, but he later died.

According to The Washington Post, an internal investigation found massive negligence at the fire station and said that one firefighter decided to read a book in his bed instead of going to help Mills.

Another firefighter at the station, instead of ringing the general alarm, tried multiple times to page the lieutenant on duty, before simply giving up.

“The insulation and lack of accountability that permeates D.C. [Fire and Medical Emergency Services (FEMS)] has created a culture of carelessness which has eroded the confidence of the city and residents in D.C. FEMS,” Karen Evans, the family’s attorney, said at a Wednesday press conference on the steps of the D.C. courthouse.

The department held disciplinary hearings last June that didn’t afford much hope to Mills’s family. The firefighter accused of reading while Mills lay outside dying, a seven-year veteran, was found guilty of conduct unbecoming and given a 60-hour suspension without pay.

The lieutenant in charge of the station retired before the trial board gave its final decision and was allowed keep her $70,000 annual pension.

Last month, the official responsible for D.C.’s 911 call center resigned amid complaints surrounding Mills’s death, and another high-profile incident that left a woman dead on a metro train.

The woman was stuck in a tunnel on a Metro train when it began to fill with smoke. Firefighters sent to free the passengers had trouble reaching the train and had to use their cell phones to communicate with each other because the department recently switched from analog to digital radios, and the new radios wouldn’t work in the tunnels.

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