Heard captain's racial slur, firefighter says Tells hearing that remark was made after emergency call

October 10, 1997|By Dan Thanh Dang | Dan Thanh Dang,SUN STAFF

An Annapolis firefighter testified yesterday that he heard Capt. Gene Kirchner make insensitive racial remarks about the victim after a mid-July emergency call.

Testifying before a Civil Service Board hearing, Firefighter Robert Proctor said that after 28-year-old Sean E. Lucas was pronounced dead of a heart attack at the hospital July 14, Kirchner said, " 'What a waste of manpower on this black [expletive].' "

It was the first time Proctor, apparently the only person who heard Kirchner's comments, has spoken publicly about the emergency call to Spa Cove Apartments in the 1100 block of Primrose Court.

At the Eastport fire station afterward, Kirchner said it was a " 'waste of medicine on that guy and that there was no need for it,' " or words to that effect, Proctor testified.

"I was pretty much shocked that he said it," said Proctor, a new employee who still is on probation. He and Firefighter Dale Thompson testified that Kirchner never used the word "nigger" in reference to Lucas, which earlier news reports said he did.

Defense attorney Samuel J. Brown said Kirchner's statements were made under "conditions of being upset, of being stressed and from having lost someone under a very stressful situation."

Kirchner, a 30-year member of the department, faces charges that he performed incompetently or inefficiently during the incident, behaved with conduct unbecoming of an employee of the city after the incident and that his conduct was detrimental to the efficiency and morale of the service.

Chief Edward P. Sherlock Jr. said in a memo Sept. 30 that the captain would be suspended for 30 days without pay and be demoted to lieutenant, would have to complete two days of diversity training and three days of management training, and would be transferred out of the Eastport station.

Kirchner appealed Sherlock's decision to the Civil Service Board. The hearing is expected to continue today, and the board is expected to rule in 45 days. It can accept or modify the chief's decision.

In opening statements, City Attorney Paul G. Goetzke and Brown both said the case was not based on the idea that emergency service to the victim was denied or hindered.

The department cleared Kirchner of that last week, but a federal civil rights investigation into the incident continues, and Lucas' family is considering a lawsuit against the city and Kirchner.

Both Proctor and Thompson said Kirchner stopped them from going up into the Lucas apartment after they arrived.

When they asked whether they should go upstairs, both testified, Kirchner said, "No. If they [the paramedics] need us, they will call us in."

Pub Date: 10/10/97

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