FLINT, MI – Attorneys working with the family of two children who died after a house fire in Flint vow to move forward with a civil lawsuit against the city, its fire department and two firefighters who cleared the fire scene issued. even though the children were still inside.
Attorneys Robert Kenner Jr. and Todd Flood announced their involvement in a civil lawsuit during a news conference on Friday, Nov. 4, and Genesee County Prosecutor David Leyton later confirmed that his office also asked the Michigan State Police to “a thorough investigation of what took place” at the scene of the fire on 28 May.
Flood, a former special prosecutor in criminal cases related to the Flint water crisis, said he has consulted with doctors and fire experts since becoming involved in the case and concluded that evidence was tampered with and that the full story surrounding the fire is not yet known. tell.
Two brothers – Zyaire Mitchell (12) and Lamar Mitchell (9) died from injuries they sustained in the house fire on West Pulaski Street. Both were alive when they were finally taken from the house — about 6 minutes after the clear was declared.
A report written by Flint Fire Chief Raymond Barton says the boys were left inside the home unnecessarily after two firefighters, one a sergeant who resigned and another who was disciplined, declared the crash and later knowingly made false reports. made when they claimed to have searched the home’s second floor and called off an ongoing search for entrapment victims.
Barton initially recommended that both firefighters be fired — a decision later reversed in what the fire chief said was “consultation” with City Attorney William Kim, Department of Human Resources Director Eddie Smith and City Administrator Clyde Edwards.
Flood said there is reason to believe the boys would have survived the fire if they had been found during the initial search of the home.
“Every doctor I’ve talked to … says a minute can mean the difference between life and death with smoke inhalation,” Flood said Friday.
The Mitchell brothers were found 6 minutes after the clear was initially declared. They were found by other Flint firefighters, who were clearing the house of smoke and smoldering debris.
Leyton said Friday he met with Crystal Cooper, the mother of the Mitchell brothers, and agreed to request an MSP investigation into possible wrongdoing related to the fire response.
The prosecutor said he never received an arrest warrant request from Flint police, but told Cooper he would investigate whether criminal charges were warranted.
“I’m going to keep my word,” Leyton said Friday.
Some members of the Flint City Council said that Mayor Sheldon Neeley’s involvement in the case had not been fully explained, and last month the council voted 5-0 to initiate an independent investigation into the circumstances surrounding the discipline given to the firefighters were given.
Related: Flint Council wants to investigate firefighter discipline in fatal Pulaski Street fire
At Friday’s news conference, across Pierson Road from a Flint fire station, Cooper said her family wants answers and justice.
“Every day is a struggle knowing I can’t see (my sons) anymore…” Cooper said. “I’m just asking for a thorough investigation because there’s a lot of cover-up (and I want) justice for my sons.”
The Neeley administration told The Journal in a statement Friday afternoon that “there is absolutely no truth to the allegation that there is a cover-up” in the fire investigation.
“Ordinarily, the City of Flint does not comment on pending litigation,” the statement said. “However, while our community mourns the children lost in the … fire, we are called upon to provide the highest level of transparency and accountability.
“The loss of children is the highest level of tragedy any family can endure, and we continue to mourn their loss. We are dismayed to see how this family’s grief is being exploited for political gain.”
The statement says the city “met its obligations under state and federal law and its collective bargaining agreements” in disciplining firefighters and “was fully transparent in providing accurate information.”
“We continue to lift this family up in prayer, and we are saddened to see their pain shamefully exploited,” the statement continued.
Neeley is running for re-election on Tuesday, Nov. 8, against former Mayor Karen Weaver, who attended Friday’s news conference.
Weaver said in a news release last week that she was “appalled, disgusted and outraged by the lack of transparency” from the mayor’s office about the fire, particularly why Barton’s initial recommendation to terminate the firefighters was changed.
Barton’s report says two firefighters who declared the fire all clear – identified as Sgt. Daniel Sniegocki and Michael Zlotek — each gave false accounts of their actions at the scene and that their “actions or inactions may have contributed to the loss of life of two victims” while damaging “the good name of the department.”
The fire chief’s report states that during his own walkthrough of the home, he saw no signs that any of the second-floor bedrooms had been searched in accordance with department training, noting that one bed was still made with undisturbed items on it. .
A representative of Flint Firefighters Local 352 said the two men were made scapegoats in the case, even though they failed to search a small room on the second floor due to extreme heat and very low visibility.
Sniegocki resigned his position with the city after the fire, and Zlotek was placed on a two-week unpaid suspension and required to complete an eight-hour search-and-rescue refresher course.
Last month, the estate of Lamar Mitchell filed a lawsuit against the two firefighters, the city and the Flint Fire Department in Genesee Circuit Court.
Flood and Kenner said Friday that this lawsuit could be dismissed and refiled or amended after their review of the case.
Read more at The Flint Journal:
Flint firefighters completely cleared fatal house fire, but children were still inside
One Flint firefighter resigns, another disciplined for roles in fatal house fire
Home where 2 Flint children died in fire had faulty wiring, investigators say