Three New York City officers are under scrutiny after chilling footage of their failed rescue of a 91-year-old grandmother from an apartment fire early last month.
Surveillance video shows NYPD Sgt. Timothy Brovakos carrying resident Ethel Davis from her Queens apartment through a smoke-filled hallway with the help of two fellow officers before abandoning her moments later, according to the New York Post. The policemen are seen leaving the elderly woman on the floor near an exit door as they helped Brovakos to safety after he was overcome by the smoke.
Davis died of smoke inhalation one day after the Jan. 12 blaze.
The disturbing footage is now part of a notice of claim to be filed by the woman’s family, the newspaper reported. Relatives claim the officers should have never tried to rescue Davis from her apartment, as the building is designed to contain fires to the units in which they start.
The blaze reportedly broke out after a halogen lamp tipped over in an apartment on the 11th floor. Davis and her daughter lived on the 12th floor.
“When you look at the video in a bubble, it looks like they’re being heroes,” lawyer Peter S. Thomas, who’s representing Davis’ family, said of the officers. “But you need to look at the big picture: They are already violating protocol by attempting this evacuation. At each and every step, the officers on the scene did precisely the wrong thing.”
Though the fire started on the floor below them, Thomas said the officers mistakenly left open the stairwell door, allowing thick smoke to billow into the 12th floor corridor. Officers also forced residents of the building to evacuate, he said, which is against NYPD and FDNY protocol, given the “fireproof” design of the building.
Davis’ daughter, Marcia, said she pleaded with officers to let her and her mother remain in the apartment, knowing they’d be safer in there rather than in the smoky hallway. The cops pressed, however, removing the great-great grandmother from her unit in nothing but a nightgown and socks.
“When I got to near the stairwell, I saw her on the floor,” Marcia told the New York Post. “I said, ‘Mama, what you doing here? Why they leave you here?’ I stayed with her as long as I could. It got so black, I was choking.”
She watched the footage for the first time this weekend, calling it “very sad” and “horrible.” The family’s legal notice of claim is the precursor to a lawsuit aimed at the NYPD and the three officers involved.
The NYPD said it’s conducting a “major investigation” into the incident.