Mother of Two Black Boys Who Died After Being Left Behind by White Firefighters in Burning Home Demands Answers

Photo Illustration by Luis G. Rendon/The Daily Beast/Courtesy of Crystal Cooper

In late May, 12-year-old Zyaire Mitchell and 9-year-old Lamar Mitchell died after briefly surviving a fire at their home in Flint, Michigan. The two Black boys were eventually discovered inside a second-floor room—in a house that was just a three-minute walk from the local fire station.

“The last message that he sent me was, ‘You’re the best mom ever,’” their mother, Crystal Cooper, recalled in an interview, speaking about Lamar. “He was just carin’ and lovin’, and if I was having a bad day, he would make me smile. He was always smiling.”

Weeks later, the city’s fire chief determined that two white firefighters initially tasked with canvassing the room in which the children were fatally injured lied about properly searching for victims.

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“Due to the nature of the incident in question, and the actions or lack of action possibly contributing to the loss of life of two victims, I have determined to terminate Sergeant Daniel Sniegocki and Michael Zlotek’s employment with the City of Flint Fire Department,” read a report dated July 22 and obtained by The Daily Beast.

But while Chief Raymond Barton made the determination to fire the firefighters, neither was ultimately dismissed. Instead, Sniegocki resigned—and his colleague, Zlotek, was allowed to return to work after completing a course in search and rescue.

The move, Barton said at an October city council meeting, “split the department.” Now, the boys’ family is publicly demanding a criminal investigation into the firefighters’ actions—as well as a probe into what some city council members in the serially troubled Michigan city have said is a cover-up by the mayor, Democrat Sheldon Neeley.

“I just would like a thorough investigation done with the firefighters,” Cooper told The Daily Beast. “Everybody that was involved. I would like answers. I want to know what happened.”

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SOURCE: The Daily Beast, Eileen Grench

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