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In this two-part column, we look at the differences between when we know at the time of the run that there is the potential for violence and when we do not know. We looked at the working vehicle fire in Maplewood, MO, where Firefighter/Paramedic Ryan Hummert was shot and killed and at the working house fire in West Babylon, NY, where firefighters found a victim aiming a gun at them.
Hundreds of miles from Maplewood, but just a few minutes’ drive from West Babylon is the community of Bellmore, NY, in Nassau County, Long Island. Responding to a vehicle accident, members of the Bellmore Fire Department were met by a victim who turned out to be a gunman – shooting at them and resulting in a firefighter down.
Again, our sincere thanks to Chief Terry Merrell and the officers and members of the Maplewood Fire Department for sharing the facts in memory of Firefighter/Paramedic Ryan Hummert as well as Chief of Department John Randazzo, First Assistant Chief James A. Campbell Jr., and the officers and members of the West Babylon Fire Department for their assistance. This month, we sincerely thank Chief Robert Taylor, Firefighter/EMT Justin Angell and the officers and members of the Bellmore Fire Department for their assistance and cooperation.
The Bellmore Fire Department is a volunteer service protecting 3.5 square miles with about 100 members responding out of three stations with four pumpers, a tower ladder, a heavy rescue, three advanced life support (ALS) ambulances, and special and support apparatus.
This account is by Bellmore Fire Department Firefighter/EMT Peter L. Pagones, part of the ambulance crew when the shots were fired:
On March 1, 2011, Firefighter/EMTs Justin and Dean Angell and I were in the recreation room at headquarters because our monthly company meeting had ended a short while earlier. At approximately 10 P.M., a rescue call was dispatched for an MVA (motor vehicle accident) in which a pickup truck struck a telephone pole at Merrick Road and Bellmore Avenue. Since the three of us were at headquarters, we were in the ambulance responding to the call immediately and notifying communications. We turned out within 90 seconds.
Dean was the chauffeur (driver) and Justin was the EMT-C and senior EMS crew member, so he sat in the officer’s seat. I was in the rear of the ambulance, checking the equipment to be used at the scene. Within three minutes, we were approaching the MVA intersection location when we were advised by communications that the MVA was not at this location, but a few blocks farther south.
As we responded south on Bellmore Avenue, Dean and Justin observed the vehicle near the yellow road divider line facing north in the northbound lane near Claxton Avenue. Dean slowed the ambulance and as it neared the pickup truck, he stopped the ambulance at the curb in the southbound lane of Bellmore Avenue. Once we came to that stop, Justin exited from the front passenger door to speak to a woman who may have been a witness to the MVA. Once Justin exited and closed the door, Dean continued to drive toward the pickup truck. At that point, we heard a series of “bang-bang”-sounding noises.
After hearing these sounds, Dean observed a green light coming from the front of the pickup truck. Dean identified this light as a laser light associated with a rifle laser sight and the “bang bangs” as gunfire. Dean crouched low behind the steering wheel and started to back up the ambulance out of this zone of danger as he notified communications that “someone is shooting at us.”
As we proceeded to back up on Bellmore Avenue, we heard the communications notification of shots being fired and for all vehicles to leave the immediate vicinity. While backing up, we saw Chief (Robert) Taylor, the first-responding chief, who was in front of us, who had stopped his vehicle near the pickup truck. Dean then stopped backing up and we started driving toward the pickup truck. When we reached the corner of Marion Street and Bellmore Avenue, we saw someone lying on the ground. Dean immediately yelled out that it was Justin. He stopped the ambulance between the pickup truck and where Justin was lying on the ground to protect against anyone else being shot.