Inquiry clears fire captain But he faces discipline on charges he used inappropriate language

October 01, 1997|By Dan Thanh Dang | Dan Thanh Dang,SUN STAFF

An Annapolis fire investigation has cleared Capt. Gene Kirchner of charges he blocked lifesaving medical care to a black man who died of a heart attack July 14.

But the 30-year veteran, who is white, faces disciplinary action on charges he used inappropriate language about a call for help that ended with the death of Sean E. Lucas, 28, of the 1100 block of Primrose Court. A federal civil rights investigation into the incident is continuing, said Larry K. Foust, an FBI spokesman, who said yesterday he was unaware the city's probe had concluded.

Lucas' father, Marcus Lucas, said he had no comment on the city's clearing Kirchner, but added, "That was an awfully quick investigation."

City sources said Kirchner faces discipline for using inappropriate language in reference to Lucas.

Allegations surfaced two weeks ago that Kirchner delayed efforts to help Lucas and used a racial slur to refer to him after he died.

In a letter from city Fire Chief Edward P. Sherlock Jr. yesterday, Kirchner was notified that "a full investigation has cleared Captain Kirchner of any charges that there was a denial of services based on race," said his attorney, Samuel J. Brown.

Brown confirmed that "he is still being disciplined," but declined to reveal details. A request to meet with the Civil Service Board to appeal Sherlock's decision is pending, Brown said. Kirchner remains on paid administrative leave.

News of the incident surfaced after two paramedics and two firefighters complained to the city's Equal Employment Opportunity Commission on Sept. 5.

Ed Napoliello, a paramedic at the scene the night before Lucas died, told investigators that he and his partner treated the patient for about five minutes and repeatedly requested help from the fire crew.

After Lucas was taken to Anne Arundel Medical Center, where he was pronounced dead, a firefighter at the scene reportedly heard Kirchner call the paramedics' efforts "a waste of personnel on this [expletive] nigger," Napoliello said.

Releasing a 911 emergency call from the incident last week, city officials denied that Lucas' rescue was impeded.

Transcripts show that a call for an unconscious person came in at 11: 38 p.m. City paramedics and a fire engine arrived at the apartment at 11: 44 p.m.

Subsequent transmissions show that the paramedics' request for help from the fire engine, supervised by Kirchner, went out on the wrong channel. Three minutes after their arrival on the scene, transcripts show that the paramedics requested "a back board and also an intubation kit."

Seconds later, Kirchner responded to the request with "Gotcha," and the transcript shows that at 11: 59 p.m., a fire truck was requested. Less than a minute later, Lucas was en route to the hospital.

City officials say the transcripts prove that Lucas received prompt, competent care from Fire Department personnel.

Pub Date: 10/01/97

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