The mother of two boys killed in a wildfire in Michigan earlier this year is pushing for an independent investigation after she accused two firefighters of lying about properly searching for survivors.
Zyaire Mitchell, 12, and his brother Lamar, 9, died after a May 28 fire at their home in Flint.
Several weeks later, an investigation led by the fire department found two firefighters responsible for the initial search of the room where the children were located lied about properly searching the victims. Almost seven minutes later, other firefighters found the children. Both later died at a hospital of smoke inhalation, their mother said. State fire investigators determined that a faulty electrical wiring caused the fire.
In his July report, Flint Fire Chief Raymond Barton determined that the two firefighters—Daniel Sniegocki and Michael Zlotek—should be removed from the department “due to the nature of the incident in question and the potential consequences of their actions or inactions. the loss of the lives of two victims.”
But instead, the council accepted the resignation of one firefighter and a second was “disciplined,” Barton said in August, without specifying what disciplinary action was taken. On Friday, the city provided CNN with a copy of a July 28 letter to Zlotek detailing the two-week suspension.
Barton declined to comment further on the investigation or its findings when contacted by CNN on Saturday.
Attorney Robert Kenner, who is representing the boys’ mother, said he believes there is evidence of racial bias in the way the investigation was handled because the children were black.
“I can’t say in good faith that these firefighters willfully failed their duty because these guys were African-American, I would never say that,” Kenner said. “I think the way the boys were handled after they were found was different from the way they were treated by others.”
Speaking at a press conference on Friday, the boys’ mother, Crystal Cooper, said: “If I only had six minutes, my babies would be here with me. I just want justice for them. They didn’t deserve this. It’s a struggle every day not to know that I will see them more.”
Kenner accused the city of a cover-up and on Friday called for another investigation.
“Chief Raymond Barton did an investigation and what he found was that two firefighters – Daniel Sniegocki and Michael Zlot – fabricated a report and lied and said they checked the room,” Kenner said. “From what they said, the chief did his own investigation and what he found was that they couldn’t check the room, they didn’t even mention anything about a bed, the location of the bed, the location of the items.”
“No parent should ever have to go through this.” added the lawyer. “No parents. So what we are asking for is a thorough investigation, a serious investigation, hidden, we are asking for the documents to be changed. We are asking for the truth.”
Kenner told CNN on Saturday that the decision not to terminate the fire department came from Flint Mayor Sheldon Neeley’s office.
A representative of the Flint Firefighters Local 352 told The Flint Journal that the two firefighters are fighting the issue because they didn’t. look for a small room on the second floor of the house, because of the high heat and low visibility.
CNN has reached out to the syndicate for comment.
“The mayor is in a tough race right now and he made the decision not to run for political reasons,” Kenner claimed. “He’s affiliated with the firefighters union and he didn’t want to upset the union or any other constituents.”
Neeley will face former Mayor Karen Weaver in Tuesday’s election.
Neeley, Mayor, he told CNN: “There is absolutely no truth to the allegation that there is a cover-up.”
“We continue to lift this family up in prayer, and are saddened to see their pain so shamefully exploited,” he added.
CNN attempted to reach Zlotek and Daniel Sniegocki for comment.