Emergency Response Questioned In Woman's Death

Emergency Response Questioned In Woman's Death

CREATED Feb 18, 2014

by Ben Hall
Investigative Reporter

ALGOOD, Tenn. - Questions surrounding the death of a heart attack victim in Algood, Tennessee, have led to a state investigation and allegations of a cover-up.

At issue is whether a first responder did all he could to save Dorothy Mullins' life.

Her family has claimed that Deputy Fire Chief Lloyd Norris refused to do life saving CPR on Mullins because she was black.

Mullins raised 11 children and worked cleaning houses until the week she died. She was 88 years old when she was visiting with her son last May.

"She turned to me and said, 'I believe I'm going to have a heart attack.' Before I could get to her, she fell," her son Shun Mullins recalled.

Her son immediately called 911. He called back frantically a second time, minutes later.

The 911 operator said, "I need you to calm down, and I'm going to talk you through CPR, ok?

Mullins responded, "Tell me what to do."

Mullins did CPR until he heard the first responder arrive.

Norris was the first on the scene.

"I was expecting some sense of urgency, like he understood it was an emergency," Mullins said.

He continued, "I'm thinking this gentleman, he's about to start doing CPR.  Well, he never started."

Despite the family's pleas, Mullins claims Norris did not do CPR. 

Minutes went by, and then an ambulance arrived.

"The ambulance arrives, and they come in and immediately start CPR," Mullins said. "Mr. Norris had no intention of helping my mother."

Days later, Mullins filed an explosive complaint with the city, calling Deputy Chief Norris prejudiced, claiming he did nothing to help his mother and refused to do CPR, because his mother was black.

The fire chief at the time, Scott Bilbrey, investigated the basis for the complaint, whether his deputy refused to do CPR.

"I said to him, 'Did you tell me you did CPR on the scene?' He said, 'Yes,'" Bilbrey remembered.

"It's very important because in four to six minutes you get irreversible brain damage."

NewsChannel 5 Investigates obtained the original fire department medical report.  It never mentioned CPR or that Norris was first to arrive.

We asked, "He was the first on the scene?"

"Yes," Bilbrey responded.

"And what does this report indicate?" NewsChannel 5 Investigates asked.

"This indicates he was one of the last on the scene," Bilbrey said.

NewsChannel 5 Investigates followed, "So, that's just wrong."

"Yes," Bilbrey said.

Bilbrey ordered Norris to correct the report.

In the second report, Norris claimed he did 10 chest compressions before a police officer took over.

But video from that police officer's helmet camera does not show Norris doing compressions.

"When I looked at the evidence that I had, I did not think there was a way that CPR could have been done," Bilbrey said.

He was so concerned he asked the city for an outside investigation.

"I was told to be quiet, not to say anything, and that it would all go away.  Those were the words they used.  Well, to me, that's a cover-up," Bilbrey said.

The Mullins family turned to the NAACP, and the city of Algood hired an attorney.

NewsChannel 5 Investigates asked Mullins, "Do you think your mom would be alive if he had done CPR?"

Mullins responded, "I think there's a very good chance she would be alive."

NewsChannel 5 Investigates asked Bilbrey "If he had done CPR would she still be alive?"

Bilbrey responded, "That's something I can't answer.  Nobody knows that."

Last summer, Norris resigned from the fire department, although he did not admit to doing anything wrong.

Fire chief Scott Bilbrey voluntarily resigned as well.

"I wasn't going to cover anything up for Mr. Norris or for anybody in this town," Bilbrey said.

The Mullins family kept pressing -- and what happened next led to more resignations, this time from state officials.

Lloyd Norris declined comment.

The Mayor of Algood, Terry Foutch, sent the following statement:

"The Fire Chief received a complaint from Mr. Mullins regarding one of our firefighters.  As soon as the report was filed with the City Administrator, the complaint was investigated.  Appropriate action was taken, and the firefighter in question is no longer a member of the Algood Fire Department. "

Algood's city administrator said he could not comment further because of an ongoing state investigation. 

NewsChannel 5 Investigates has learned that a veteran investigator with the Department of Health has lost his job as a result of his conduct during the investigation.

We will have that story Tuesday on NewsChannel 5 at 6 p.m.

Email: bhall@newschannel5.com

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