Close Calls: Firefighters Become Targets of Gunshot Violence

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...


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Dean exited the ambulance and ran around the front of it to where Justin was lying while I exited the side passenger door. Bellmore Fire Department member Matt Podolski, who lived nearby, was standing at the corner. I saw Justin lying on his stomach and a dark-colored liquid covering the lower portion of his blue rescue vest. The three of us lifted Justin up by his shoulders, carried him into the ambulance through the side door and placed him face down on the gurney.

I could hear the sound of another series of bullets being fired over our heads. Once Justin was in the ambulance, Dean jumped back into the driver’s seat and proceeded with lights and sirens to Nassau University Medical Center (NUMC), a Level 1 trauma center. Paul Zuckerberg, our EMS captain, contacted Med Com (medical control) and requested the trauma team be ready for our arrival.

During the initial assessment, I confirmed that Justin was conscious with positive airway breathing and circulation. Matt and I removed Justin’s clothing and determined that he was bleeding from his lower back. While applying a pressure dressing to stop the bleeding, I observed a small piece of metal that appeared to be a bullet fragment. I instantly placed the fragment in a secure location and continued to apply pressure and after a short time, the wound stopped bleeding.

At NUMC, Justin was taken to a trauma room in the ER, where a full trauma team was waiting to treat him. As I exited the ambulance with the gurney, I placed the metal fragment in a piece of tissue and put it in my pocket. I did this to ensure that once I gave it to the Nassau County Police Department, there would be no issue raised regarding the legal “chain of custody” during any subsequent criminal proceeding.

We assisted the trauma team in moving Justin onto a stretcher bed, at which time my treatment of Justin as my patient was transferred to the trauma team. We took the trundle back to the ambulance, but were advised by police officers that the ambulance was to be locked and the trundle was not to be moved from beside the ambulance nor, which I found somewhat disconcerting, could we clean the blood from the trundle mattress, since both were considered part of the crime scene.

I returned to the ER and while waiting with other department members for news about Justin, I was approached by two detectives and asked to give a statement. While talking to the detectives, I learned that the shooter had been killed by police. Justin was transferred to a room in ICU and at about 1 A.M., I was able to see and speak with him. He was in stable condition and in an excellent frame of mind.

 

This account is by Bellmore Fire Department Firefighter/EMT Dean Angell, who was driving the ambulance when the shots were fired:

A female was in the roadway flagging us down and I pulled the ambulance up almost nose to nose with the pickup truck that hit a pole. The pole that was hit was a few houses behind the pickup truck. Justin got out to speak with the female who we thought might be a witness. I was opening the driver’s-side door to get out of the ambulance when I heard a loud bang. The first thing I did was look up at the pole I parked next to, thinking it was a transformer exploding above the ambulance.

The ambulance was fine and the next thing that happened was a green laser going past my eyes. I looked straight ahead and saw someone leaning out of the pickup truck’s driver’s-side window involved in the accident, shooting a long black rifle with a green laser multiple times. I said to myself, this can’t be happening.

I looked over and Justin was gone. I yelled back to Pete to get down, there’s a gun. I threw the ambulance into reverse and got under the steering wheel, put on the sirens and grabbed the radio. Now I was going in reverse, blind, and trying to let the dispatcher and units responding know what was going on. I was transmitting that someone was shooting at us and trying to tell the dispatcher who and where we were. When I felt I was far away enough, I got up from the steering wheel and grabbed the PA and said Justin, where are you? I was at least six or eight houses down from the pickup truck.

I saw Chief Taylor driving past me. He got on the radio and said there was a shooting victim here. I then drove forward, thinking of how I was going to put the ambulance on an angle between the shooter and the injured so nobody else would be hit. As I pulled up, I looked out the driver side window and saw it was Justin who was down. I couldn’t put the ambulance into park fast enough to jump out to him.