Marie Mills' father collapsed Saturday afternoon in a shopping center parking lot across the street from a Washington, DC, firehouse—but firefighters didn't rush to his aid, despite repeated pleas for help, and Medric "Cecil" Mills, 77, died of a heart attack. Marie Mills tells WTTG that bystanders were "screaming and hollering" at a firefighter across the street, and three people even ran over to Engine 26, but they were told rescuers could not respond until 911 was called, the Washington Post reports. Sources say that when 911 was called, an ambulance and engine were dispatched from another location and went to the wrong part of the city; Mills says the only reason an ambulance eventually showed up—15 to 20 minutes later—was because a police officer saw it passing by and flagged it down. Her father, a four-decade city employee, died at the hospital.
"Several people told me the guy behind the door wouldn't open the door. He told them, 'There's nothing I can do if my lieutenant doesn't tell me to go,'" Mills says. It's unclear whether he informed his superiors about what was going on. Authorities are investigating, and 15 firefighters who were on duty that day have been called in for questioning. Officials are responding, with the mayor calling the situation "hard to accept." One expert says that while emergency workers can't "self-dispatch" and respond to calls on their own, if they see trouble, they "have a duty to go over and investigate." Adds the deputy mayor for public safety, "They don't wait to be called."