EXCLUSIVE: Fire Chief Kenneth Ellerbe talks to FOX 5 regarding d - DC News FOX 5 DC WTTG

EXCLUSIVE: Fire Chief Kenneth Ellerbe talks to FOX 5 regarding death of Cecil Mills

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D.C. Fire and EMS Chief Kenneth Ellerbe D.C. Fire and EMS Chief Kenneth Ellerbe
Medric "Cecil" Mills Jr. Medric "Cecil" Mills Jr.
WASHINGTON -

D.C. Fire and EMS Chief Kenneth Ellerbe is breaking his silence about his department's controversial response to an elderly man who died of a heart attack across the street from a fire station.

For a moment during our interview, the chief took off his official hat and revealed something we didn't know until now -- a personal connection to Cecil Mills -- who died before help arrived.

Ellerbe has known Mills well for years and the chief says he met with Mills' daughter.

“I don't want to paint the department with a broad brush because of this single incident,” said Ellerbe. “It’s a tragic incident and it’s something we really wished had not happened and it’s something we're investigating.”

It is his first interview since 77-year-old Cecil Mills, stricken by a heart attack, died across the street from a fire station, and received no help from firefighters. Mills’ daughter says they refused to help and said to just call 911.

The lieutenant in charge of the fire station is now retiring and will not talk about the incident.

The incident has captured national headlines and the Washington Post editorial board says the firefighters showed callous disregard for a man's life.

“What I would say to Ms. Mills is what I’ve already said to Ms. Mills: I knew Mr. Mills. He was somebody I knew well,” Ellerbe said. “And she understands that I am sorry for what happened and regret that it occurred. We are an agency that is responsible for taking care of the city.”

The chief got to know Mills during his 40 years in city government working for the parks department. Before his death, Mills was still working for the city.

Ellerbe addressed the question about his ability to lead the department.

“I think if you look at the progress we've made, we are leading the department,” said Ellerbe. “I’m not going to say I’ll take the blame. I’ll take the responsibility for the agency and I don't think it's unfair. When you're in these positions, it's something that you expect and you expect to be held accountable for these types of things, but you also hope to have the ability to hold employees accountable.”

And the chief says that is where the investigation is at currently. The department is looking at the actions of personnel at the station who didn't come to the rescue of Mills on January 25.

They will look at the role of dispatch and the ambulance crew who went to a Northwest D.C. address and not the correct scene in Northeast D.C.

Why has Ellerbe been rejecting interview requests about Mills’ death?

“This incident is under investigation and generally we do not talk about things like that when they're under investigation,” said Ellerbe.

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