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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I saw a ton of blood all over his back and he was on all fours. I asked him where he was hit and whether he could feel his legs. He said he could feel his legs and Chief Taylor said, let’s get him out of here. Chief Taylor, Pete, Matt and I picked him up and went through the side door of the ambulance. I said put pressure on his back and I ran back to the driver’s seat and took off as fast as I could. Driving to the hospital was unreal. By now, every police car was flying past me going the opposite way and all I could think of was if Justin was going to be OK. I must have screamed it to the back a bunch of times, what’s his status? We got up there really quick with (First Assistant) Chief (Daniel) Holl following behind. When we got there, I went to the back doors and we pulled him out. On the way to the trauma room I kept reassuring Justin everything was going to be OK and that I was going to be with him the whole time.

 

This account provided by Bellmore Firefighter/EMT-CC Justin Angell, who was shot upon sizing-up the MVA scene:

After a 10-hour workday, I went down to the firehouse to go to my fire company’s monthly meeting. The meeting started around 8:30 and I wasn’t planning on staying after that since I had to be back into work at midnight. After the hour-long meeting, I went downstairs and ran into some of my friends and my brother, who were in the TV room, so I decided to hang out for a little while.

As we were all talking, the lights in the firehouse flickered and the TV shut off. One of the first things I had said as a joke was, “Here comes the call for a crash into a pole,” and like clockwork, two minutes later, our pagers went off for an auto accident, car into a telephone pole with a transformer down at the intersection of Bellmore Avenue and Merrick Road.

I was the only ALS provider there, so I had no problem going onto the ambulance and my brother Dean told me he would drive. One of our newer EMTs, Pete (Pagones), also went on the ambulance. On our way to the call, the things that were going through my head, my pre-arrival size-up, included thinking about people possibly being pinned – if the transformer was down, were live wires on the ground next to the car? Standard “pre-arrival size-up” thoughts.

As we pulled up to the intersection, there were no signs of a crash anywhere. My brother informed me he could see what seemed like a car or truck in the middle of the road a bit more south on Bellmore Avenue. As we went south, I could see what seemed to be an SUV or a pickup truck with heavy damage to the front in the middle of the road and we realized that all the power was out and the street was pitch black. The next thing I did just before we stopped was notify the dispatcher of the newly found location of the MVA.

As we were pulling up, we noticed a bystander to the west of us on the side of the road waving us down, so I told my brother to pull up next to her, which was approximately 25 yards from the pickup truck. We used caution as there were probable wires down by the crash and we didn’t know if they were live. I opened the door of the ambulance and got out, asking the bystander if she witnessed the accident. As she was answering me, I took two steps away from the ambulance in the direction of the crash. The next thing I heard was what sounded like an explosion – an explosion so loud that it felt like it happened right next to me.

Before I could fully register the noise and think of what it was, I felt extreme pain to my left lower side near my hip, but with the pain also came a jolt of force. With the momentum from the jolt, I had begun to run for my safety and headed away from the pickup truck. As I was running, I began to feel pain in my back and realized I was definitely hurt. But in real time, as I was running and thinking of the pain, I could see what looked like to me a green laser pointer on the houses to the left, which I was running parallel with, and also hearing additional loud explosion noises. Also to my right I saw the ambulance still with its lights on, going in reverse northbound on Bellmore Avenue hitting the siren and air horns in what looked like a scramble to get away from the scene.

Right away, I thought the transformer had exploded, shooting scrap metal out and clipping me in my side. As I got to the next block north, there was an auto stopped on the corner and I immediately went over to the trunk and leaned on it to help with the pain and try to find out what was going on. The driver of the auto got out and to my surprise it was a familiar face. The driver, Matt (Podolski), is also a member of the Bellmore Fire Department and was responding in his personal vehicle to the firehouse for the run, but had turned around when he saw the ambulance rapidly coming at him in reverse. He told me he was trying to get away from the scene, but he stopped on the corner when he saw me running. I told him it felt like I got hit with something on my left side and that my back really hurt. Matt then looked at my back and told me to go over to the front lawn of the house we were on the corner of and to get down. I collapsed on all fours on the lawn of the house. Blood was running down my back and all I could hear was that bystander who saw everything screaming, “He shot him! He shot him!”