Two Newport News, VA, Firefighters Mistakenly Declare Man Dead

April 11, 2024
The victim, who wasn't treated by Newport News medics for nearly 50 minutes, died 10 days later.

Two Newport News firefighters who mistakenly pronounced a shooting victim dead last fall are no longer responding with the department.

The crew, including a veteran lieutenant with 15 years on the job, found a man on a porch with multiple gunshot wounds including one in the head.

The police statement the following day said the victim "was transported to a local hospital for treatment of injuries that were believed to be life-threatening," according to WAVY.

That was the story police stuck to upon arrest of a suspect.

But in March, WAVY investigative reporters received a tip alleging that the lieutenant ordered other firefighters to let the man die. 

“This lasted 50 minutes and NNPD has the body cam footage,” the allegation read.

Both Interim Fire Chief Wesley Rogers and Police Chief Steve Drew confirmed that some of the allegations sent to station were true. 

“When medics responded and they found Mr. Williams, they declared Mr. Williams deceased. After some time of being on the incident, they realized that Mr. Williams was not deceased. And at that time, they loaded him and transported him to the hospital," Rogers said.

Sources close to the fire department say Williams was alive for at least 40 minutes making “intentional” movements.  

The chiefs wouldn't say if crews took vitals on the victim. But, medical protocols were not followed, They said they couldn't comment on certain details due to a pending criminal investigation. 

Rogers noted that an EMS captain, who was cancelled when the patient was declared deceased,  responded again when the crew realized he was alive. The medic also assisted with advanced life support procedures. 

The victim who was placed on life support died 10 days later. 

The EMS captain advised his battalion chief of the circumstances, who made the on-call chief aware. Rogers said after he learned about the incident from him, he notified the city manager.

“The employees on that incident — the senior providers — did not live up to the standards of care that are accepted by the Newport News Fire Department and the city of Newport News,” Rogers said adding that the body cam he watched is "heartbreaking."

He added that race was not a factor in the incident.

“Absolutely not,” Rogers said. “As an organization, we’re here to support and be here for our community and there’s absolutely no reason that racism that was involved with that incident or any incident that involves this fire department.”

“I can’t get into the specifics of the discipline process, but… those employees, everybody on that scene, through the internal investigation, went through the discipline process,” he added.

The officials deny trying to cover-up cover-up the lack of treatment by releasing the same statement after the shooting and the arrest.

They had planned to tell the family about the delay in treatment of their loved one before the trial. 

“We knew that the family was going to see it in the courtroom — that they’re going to see everything.  So that, that’s the time to address it. To make them aware of that — prior to them walking into a courtroom and seeing it for the first time,” Rogers said. “So that’s why we knew we were not afraid of it. We’re not going to hide from it.” 

About the Author News

Content curated and written by Firehouse editorial staff, including Susan Nicol, Steven Shaw, Peter Matthews, Ryan Baker and Rich Dzierwa.