WASHINGTON (DC News Now) — Kevin Baker said he wants answers. So far, the response from DC Fire and EMS and the 911 Call Center has not satisfied him regarding the death of his brother Bernard Baker Jr.
The DC resident is convinced that the two agencies are responsible for his 42-year-old brother’s death — EMS for a lack of urgency, and the 911 system for botching two calls and then putting them on hold for minutes.
“I am beyond troubled. Not only am I troubled, I’m disgusted,” Kevin Baker said. “I’m disgusted that someone’s life is not even being held up to accountability and it just disgusts me.”
Family members said Bernard Baker Jr. collapsed in the family home in Northwest D.C. in the early morning hours of April 30 due to what they believed was a cardiac arrest. They said that the 911 call center dropped calls from both Baker Jr.’s father and fiancée and placed them on hold before call takers answered.
Then once the paramedics arrived, the Baker family members said that they were taking their time getting into the home.
“I’m just hurt to my core. I’m ashamed to live in the District of Columbia. I do not respect the EMS or 911,” he said.
In a statement, EMS officials claimed no wrongdoing despite protestations by the Baker family.
“Our review found that we arrived at the dispatched address in less than six minutes, and that CPS was initiated two minutes after our arrival,” the statement read. “The review also found that the patient received appropriate advanced cardiac life support treatments and that all medical protocols were initiated and conducted properly.”
“They said they did the best for him? I’m sitting there. I sat there and watched them. They took their time,” Kevin Baker added.
The Baker family also said there were delays in answering the phone in the early morning hours of April 30.
Heather McGaffin, the head of the Office of Unified Communications which operates the 911 Call Center, promised last month in an interview with DC News Now to share her findings with the family but has not done so.
McGaffin was unavailable for comment.
But Dave Statter, a former journalist turned safety advocate and a frequent critic of the 911 Call Center system, said ”transparency has never been a strong point in DC 911.”
“They don’t like us to know what’s going on inside,” Statter said. “They say they’re all about being open and accountable and transparent. It’s just the opposite. They are not.”
Aujah Griffin said she’s experienced with 911 Call Center officials stonewalling for information.
”The lack of accountability, the lack of urgency,” she said. “All of these things really are key points that are similar to my father’s story.
Her father, David Early Griffin, dove into the Washington Channel in Southwest DC in March 2022. Call takers for DC 911 reportedly fielded calls about him moving around the area, but dispatchers sent crews to the wrong location.
Griffin said she’s still searching for answers on why 911 call takers made the location mistake that delayed their arrival in what she believes may have saved her father’s life.
”It breaks my heart to know that people are still passing, lives are still being lost,” she said.