2 Newport News firefighters terminated after delay of aid in fatal incident (2024)

10 On Your Side investigation finds protocols ignored in fatal incident; authorities deny a cover-up

NEWPORT NEWS, Va. (WAVY) – Two Newport News firefighters, including a senior lieutenant who had been with the department for 15 years, are no longer employed there after an internal investigation found they ignored protocols while responding to a shooting last October.

The city, through the fire and police departments, has been slow to release information about the tragic incident that led to their removal. The 10 On Your Side Investigative team was only made aware of what happened through an anonymous tip.

Fire and Police Response

Officials say in the early morning hours of Oct. 15, 2023, police and firefighter-medics responded to a shot spotter notification.

When they arrived they found 39-year-old Quandrell Williams of Smithfield on the porch of an apartment. According to court documents, he had been shot several times, including once in the head.

“He was transported to a local hospital for treatment of injuries that were believed to be life-threatening,” police wrote in a statement the next day. He would spend the next 10 days on life support before dying on Oct. 25.

That was allauthorities released about the incident.

Even two months to the day later, when a suspect was arrested in the shooting, police did not provide an update to the media.

“In reference to the murder of Quandrell Williams, Lakavious Lamont Charity, a 35-year-old Newport News man was arrested on December 15, 2023 and charged with second degree murder, use of a firearm in the commission of a felony and contempt of court,” read a police statement that was provided only to a PR strategist prior to our investigation.

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WAVY received the updated arrest information on March 12 after reaching out to police as a part of our investigation.

Charity declined a jailhouse interview. His preliminary hearing last month was continued until June 12. 10 On Your Side called multiple times and stopped by his attorney’s office, but haven’t heard back.

I0 On Your Side’s Investigation

On March 4, the investigative team received a tip alleging that Newport News firefighters allowed a gunshot victim to die. It specifically named a fire lieutenant and said he ordered the other first responders to let the man die.

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

10 On Your Side went to work sending emails, making phone calls, knocking on doors and filing Freedom of Information Act requests.

Eventually, we connected Williams’ death to the allegations in the tip.

Ultimately, Police Chief Steve Drew and Interim Fire Chief Wesley Rogers agreed to sit down for an interview to discuss this case. They cautioned that the release of certain information could jeopardize the pending murder trial. They also admitted that some of the allegations in the tip we received 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,” Rogers told us. “And at that time they loaded him and transported him to the hospital.”

Sources close to the fire department say Williams laid alive for at least 40 minutes with a gunshot wound to his head, making “intentional” movements, before he was transported to Riverside Regional Medical Center.

Protocols were not followed, the chiefs explained, though neither could go into detail about exactly what happened or what signs of life were checked on scene, citing the pending criminal investigation. They assured us the city did not try to cover up the incident, but WAVY-TV questioned the limited release of information from the authorities.

“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.

Asked what the ideal response would’ve been, Rogers replied: “Mr. Williams would have been transported immediately.”

The original tip alleged race played a role in the delay of care. Our Aesia Toliver asked the chiefs if this was true.

“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.”

We also asked the obvious question: would Williams still be alive if the response had been adequate?

“We can’t make that determination, right?” Rogers said. “That’s got to be done by physicians and doctors who can determine that. From what we were told from the attending physician that was there, that bullet killed Mr. Williams.”

Internal Investigation

The senior EMS Captain was one of the first responders dispatched to the scene, according to officials.

“That individual was responding to the call, but they were canceled upon the DOA assignment,” Rogers said.

When the fire-medics on scene realized Williams was still alive, the EMS Captain was re-dispatched to the scene to initiate a procedure to help advance medical care.

Rogers said the captain told his battalion chief, who called the on-call chief or assistant, who called Rogers.

Rogers says he then notified the city manager and an internal investigation began shortly after the incident.

“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,” Rogers said.

Rogers also stated the Virginia Office of Emergency Medical Services (OEMS) was notified about the incident shortly after it happened. However, WAVY received the following statement from the Virginia Department of Health’s Office of Communications after asking about a specific former employee involved, and the overall investigation:

“OEMS has no open investigation concerning this provider and has no record of the reported related incident.”

VDH statement

Though that conflicts with Rogers’ statement, he said he has proof their office was notified about the internal investigation. OEMS stands by their claim.

Reliable sources have identified the senior firefighters on scene. WAVY has chosen not to report their names at this time. We’re told both terminated firefighters found employment with the Newport News Shipbuilding Fire Department — though the organization declined to comment.

“As a matter of policy, we do not release employment information,” a spokesperson from Newport News Shipbuilding, which operates its own specialized firefighting service, told WAVY in a statement.

Family Response

While steps were taken to investigate what happened within the fire department, we learned police didn’t sit down with Williams’ family to talk about the delay in help until 10 On Your Side got involved months later.

On Friday, Williams’ sister told our Aesia Toliver the family is aware of the delayed response, but didn’t want to say anything further. She directed us to his obituary instead.

Williams is remembered as “beloved as a father, son, brother, uncle, cousin and friend.” He had 10 children and six siblings.

According to the obituary, Williams coached a little league football team and was a member of the Triple Motorcycle Club in Hampton.

Drew explained the family raised some concerns early on after hearing rumors. He personally met with five members of the family on April 4.

“I can tell you this, his mother and his brother, his niece and his sister, and his father, love him and the number one thing they want is justice for Mr. Williams. That’s the number one thing they want,” added Drew.

The police chief said he fully intended on informing them in the leadup to the pending trial, in concert with the commonwealth’s attorney, as the information and associated body camera video would likely be presented as evidence.

“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.”

While Rogers would not detail what happened in the body camera video from that day, he described it as heartbreaking.

No video of the incident has yet been released to the family or to the media.

“Administrative investigation; personnel matters — those are separate from a criminal case,” Drew said. “There is an individual that took a firearm, pointed it and pulled the trigger and took the life of Mr. Williams. And that’s where we need to go first.”

Williams was shot outside an apartment complex. According to court documents, the mother of one of Williams’ children lives in one of the units there.

WAVY recently went to the neighborhood to try to find witnesses.

We spoke to a neighbor who remembers hearing around five shots that morning and seeing police, but didn’t know how long the victim remained on the scene.


Policy Changes

Rogers says all of this has led to operational changes—starting with requiring the most senior medical officer to respond to incidents involving a death. If that would have been the policy on Oct. 15, the EMS captain would have gone to the apartment where Williams was shot, even though they believed he was already deceased.

He explained the department was also able to hire an operational medical director who gives them the authority to practice under their license.

To operate, paramedics are certified by the state of Virginia, however, they cannot practice unless a doctor authorizes those skills. Prior to the change, the paramedics in Newport News operated under the license of Dr. Cheryl L. Lawson who works at Riverside Regional Medical Center.

“We all got to own up for mistakes, and as the leader of this organization, at the end of the day, I have to be able to talk about what happened,” Rogers said. “I don’t want to hide anything for the sake of the family, the sake of everybody involved, and for the citizens of this city.”

The incident was not only a learning experience for the fire department, but also police. Drew said his department implemented stricter access to body camera videos for officers. In this case, sources say people not involved in the investigation were logging in to an internal system to watch the body camera footage from the incident.

“We are human people that wear this uniform,” Drew said. “We don’t always get it right, but our job is to be better tomorrow than we are today. And we should be better today than we were yesterday.”

The 10 On Your Side investigative team submitted multiple Freedom of Information Act requests for city communications regarding the incident. At first, Chief Deputy of the City Attorney, Darlene Bradberry, said it would cost $421.01 for the documents. We narrowed our request, at which point she said in an email, “the requested records are being entirely withheld.”

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She went on to say, “The city is withholding 26 pages of records pursuant to § 2.2-3705.1(2) which constitute written advice of legal counsel to a local public body or the officers or employees of such public bodies, and other information protected by the attorney-client privilege.”

“The city is further withholding 162 pages of records which constitute personnel records of persons employed by a public body engaged in emergency medical services and an administrative investigation into the conduct of such persons, which may be withheld from disclosure under Virginia Code Sections 2.2-3706(D), 2.2-3706(B)(9), and 2.2-3705.1.”

2 Newport News firefighters terminated after delay of aid in fatal incident (2024)
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