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On Wednesday, ABC 7, and Fox 5 last night, reported on a bizarre incident Tuesday evening at a Georgetown firehouse. At Engine 5, on the 3400 block of Dent Place NW, a fire lieutenant cut the hand of an emergency medical technician with a knife, requiring the EMT to be taken to the hospital and given 10 stitches.
So, a personal dispute got out of hand?
Nope: According to the press release issued by the Fire and Emergency Medical Services Department, the employees, identified by Fox 5 as fire Lt. Laurence Clark and emergency medical technician Edward McGlaughlin Jr., “were involved in what has been characterized at this point as ‘negligent horseplay’ by investigating law enforcement officials….it appears to have been the result of an accident.” Clark has not been arrested.
Here’s what McGlaughlin’s mom had to say about that to Fox 5: “I know he wasn’t playing, cause I know he’s not that kind of person to play, and he don’t carry no knife.”
Ken Lyons, head of the union representing city EMS employees, tells LL he also doesn’t buy the official story this far. “The investigation—-and I use that term loosely—-that followed the whole thing was handled in such a cavalier manner….It’s the old saying: It’s not the crime; it’s the cover-up.” Basic questions, Lyons says, weren’t asked of Clark by police on the night of the incident.
What Lyons alleges is being covered up is that the incident “may have been a culmination of repeated harassment by [Clark] against Mr. McGlaughlin,” he says. “This seems to have been something that was brewing.”
A finding of “negligent horseplay,” Lyons says, could mean that McGlaughlin is open to disciplinary action—-including dismissal—-just as Clark. “That can hold him just as much at fault as the person who assaulted him,” he says.
Furthermore, Lyons sees in McGlaughlin’s treatment the continuation of a pattern and culture of harassment of emergency medical employees at the hands of fire department staffers, often in supervisory positions. The FEMS Task Force formed in the wake of the David Rosenbaum death referred in its final report to a “continued culture clash” between the fire and medical portions of the department.
“I think there is a pattern there that is quite disturbing,” Lyons says. “We see this play out day in and day out.” He points out that for McGlaughlin to complain about any harassment, his complaint would have had to have been endorsed by his firehouse supervisor—-a fire captain. “That’s the fox watching the henhouse,” he says.
FEMS spokesperson Alan Etter tells LL that there’s no evidence that McGlaughlin ever filed a complaint against Clark, and that D.C. police determined on Tuesday that no crime had been committed. “Having said that, we believe that the behavior described for us was inappropriate and unsafe.” The FEMS statement is after the jump.
STATEMENT BY FIRE CHIEF DENNIS RUBIN ON INCIDENT AT ENGINE 5
At approximately 6:30 PM on September 16, 2008, two of our employees were involved in what has been characterized at this point as ‘negligent horseplay’ by investigating law enforcement officials. This occurred at the quarters of Engine 5, located at 3417 Dent Place, Northwest.
One of the employees, both of whom were on-duty, brandished a small knife and in the course of this ‘playing around’, cut the other individual across the hand. The laceration was serious enough to require transport to the hospital and ten stitches. Though this resulted in a serious injury, it appears to have been the result of an accident.
In any case, this behavior is not acceptable by this department and will not be tolerated. The individual who brandished the knife has been placed on administrative leave, and a full investigation is underway by both our internal affairs division and the Metropolitan Police Department. The person who brandished the knife will be given due process through our trial board system.
It is important that the public understand that this sort of behavior is not condoned in our department, and anyone who engages in it will be dealt with severely.