Fire captain probed in man's death Rescue official allegedly denied aid to dying black victim

Man's father 'shocked'

City denies claim of substandard care for 28-year-old

September 23, 1997|By Dan Thanh Dang and Andrea F. Siegel | Dan Thanh Dang and Andrea F. Siegel,SUN STAFF

The father of a 28-year-old Annapolis man said yesterday he was "totally shocked" to hear allegations that a white city fire captain may have blocked lifesaving medical care for his son, who is black.

A federal civil rights investigation has begun into the July 14 death of Sean E. Lucas, of the 1100 block of Primrose Court. Allegations became public this weekend that Capt. Gene Kirchner, a 30-year Fire Department veteran, delayed efforts to help Lucas and then used a racial slur to refer to him after he died.

"I never knew anything about it Nobody had called me," said his father, Marcus E. Lucas, reached yesterday in Washington. He refused to comment in detail because "it's possible this is going to be in litigation. I'm really shook up about this."

Unsure of what happened the night of his son's death, Lucas added, "If it's true [paramedics] didn't get the help they needed, my son could have lived, maybe."

Yesterday, during a hastily called City Hall news conference, city officials countered that the younger Lucas received prompt, competent care from Fire Department personnel.

Fire Chief Edward P. Sherlock Jr. described Kirchner, 54, as a "good employee" now on paid administrative leave, pending the outcome of federal and internal investigations.

Kirchner, who has denied the allegations, was told Saturday that the city intends to fire him, said city sources close to the case.

City officials released a recording and transcript of the 911 emergency call they received about Lucas. It dispels "the suggestion that we did not provide service," said City Attorney Paul G. Goetzke. "There were eight city firefighters working diligently to revive the patient."

In the transcript, a call for an unconscious man at the Spa Cove Apartments, in the 1100 block of Primrose Court, came in at 11: 38 p.m. Paramedics reached the apartment at 11: 44 p.m.

An engine company, led by Kirchner, arrived less than half a minute later.

"He just fell down in between the bed. He's been throwing up. He's been having chest pains. And I'm trying to get him up. He -- I think he stopped breathing," a panicky Janice Pulley, Lucas' roommate, told dispatchers.

She said she could not see Lucas' chest moving and a neighbor with her could not detect a pulse.

Lucas is described on his Maryland driver's license as 5 feet 11 inches tall and weighing 265 pounds. Pulley told dispatchers that Lucas had been "sick all day," had a weak heart and had been ailing "ever since he's been let out of the hospital" for treatment of pneumonia.

The transcript shows that at 11: 59 p.m., a firetruck was requested. Less than a minute later, Lucas was en route to Anne Arundel Medical Center.

The tapes and transcript do not reflect or discount news reports which characterize complaints two paramedics and two firefighters filed with the city on Sept. 5.

City sources said the men tried to file a complaint at the city's Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. After being transferred from Kirchner's command and becoming frustrated with the city's efforts to mediate the complaint by geting Kirchner to retire, the men filed the formal complaint, the sources said.

The Washington Post, citing an investigative report, claims that the firefighters did not follow the paramedics into the building, as they are required to do.

One firefighter told the Post that Kirchner stopped him as he started to enter the building.

A paramedic told investigators that he and his partner treated the patient for about five minutes and repeatedly requested help from the fire crew, according to the Post's account, which added that a dispatcher sent a second firetruck to the scene.

Later, Kirchner reportedly went to the hospital to pick up a firefighter who had accompanied the ambulance. One of the firefighters reportedly heard Kirchner call the paramedic's efforts waste of personnel on this nigger," the newspaper reported, citing the internal documents.

But Kirchner's lawyer, Samuel J. Brown, said yesterday that the "quote that has been attributed to him in news accounts has never been used in any complaint filed against him.''

"In fact, my client denies any racial comment by him at all," said Brown, who declined to provide the written complaints.

"This is a single employee, not the Annapolis Fire Department," Sherlock said. "We pride ourselves on giving quality service to Annapolis residents."

Lucas' father said he doesn't know what to believe.

"I've always had this hope in life that we would get away from this hate, but it lives," the elder Lucas said.

Pub Date: 9/23/97

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