The dispatcher comes up giving us a call back in the “Flowers.” We call it that because all of the streets are named for different flowers. It’s also on the list of spots to avoid today. “Medic-40, respond to 1055 Rose St. for the 242, unknown assault. Please stage, your scene is not secure.” Fabulous!
Louis punches the address into his GPS and starts driving. I reach back into my bag and pull out my body armor. We’ve been partners for a few weeks but he hasn’t seen me pull this out yet.
“Oh that’s just great dude, where’s mine?”
“Sorry man, I think yours is at the store waiting for you to buy it.” We have a fun banter throughout the day — our way of releasing some stress. Maybe it sounds twisted but everyone I’ve worked with is like this; we make snide comments, totally inappropriate observations, and have some pretty dark humor before and after a call. Once we’re on scene and in the public’s eye we are 100% business. It’s a coping mechanism that seems to work.
Before entering the Flowers our dispatcher tells us that the scene is secure and we’re clear to enter. That didn’t take long; probably because the whole police force is mobilized right now.
Covering the last few blocks to the call I can see people standing in front of houses for maybe four blocks. The whole neighborhood is outside to see if this is the guy from the manhunt. I’m sure everyone in the city knows what’s going on right now.
As we pull up I can see firefighters on the corner treating a person with blood on his head. Louis and I have already talked about how we’re going to handle this one. Despite what the dispatcher says, there is nothing secure about the city today. So we’re going to hold our scene time to a minimum and treat every call as a “load and go.”
Walking up I see a small pool of blood on the sidewalk, an eight foot pole with cotton candy bags tied to it, and a man in his twenties getting put on a back board. The fire medic tells me that this is one of the street vendors that walk around selling stuff (usually ice cream or candy) in the urban neighborhoods. He has a bicycle horn tied to his pants with a string — he honks it as he goes up and down the streets to let the kids know he’s around. Two guys jumped him for his cash — a totally random act of violence, and particularly low considering that this guy probably only makes $50 or $60 per day. Looking at the pole with the candy on it I’m even more disgusted — the pole is still half full, so they couldn’t have gotten more than twenty or thirty dollars.
As we’re strapping him to the board I just can’t help myself; I honk the horn. Well, I guess I’m not always appropriate on scene. That seemed to lighten the tension a little with the other firefighters and PD that are standing around us. I get questions about the vest and nods of approval; today it’s very appropriate.
We load him in the rig, I jump in after him, and I tell Louis to take off. Eight minute scene time — not bad! It’s not a trauma activation but we don’t want to hang out in the hood any more than we have to today.
We’re driving out of the Flowers without lights or siren; it’s a Code-2 trip to the closest hospital. I do my secondary assessment which reveals nothing new — just the minor bleeding from a laceration to the left orbit and some swelling to the cheeks. I’m doing my assessment and talking to Jose, my new patient, in my pigeon medical Spanish. I learned to do a pretty good Spanish assessment when working in the rural county where I interned, which had a large migrant field worker population.
I give Jose an ice pack and he’s able to hold it to his cheek as I put a sterile dressing on the laceration. As I’m reassuring him that everything is fine and this is all just precautionary he starts to cry; he’s getting very emotional and scared. I think I see what’s going on here.
“Señor, soy un paramédico no un policía, todo es bueno.” I look out the window to see that we’re out of the Flowers so I pull the Velcro straps on my vest and take it off. It says Paramedic in big letters on the front and back but even still I look like a cop to him. I want to take it off to make him feel a little better.
I still remember being in the rural county with my preceptor on Halloween. We thought it would be fun to hide in the ambulance, parked in front of our quarters, and wait for the trick-or-treaters to ring the bell. Then I hit all of the lights on the rig and my preceptor jumped out and scared the kids. It had an unexpected result as the children of the migrant farm workers ran off screaming, “AAAHHH policía, policía!” Poor kids, I really felt bad about that — we forgot about the badges that we wore in that county. No way in hell I’d wear a badge in this county — it’s already too dangerous.
¿Medicamento para el dolor, la morfina?
He declines the Morphine. No candy for the candy man today. He’s still pretty emotional but at least it hasn’t gotten worse. I suspect I know what’s going on. I’m going to assume he has a questionable immigration status. Most of the people that work this type of job do — not all, but it’s a high probability. These are the kind of people who want to fade into the background and not be seen by the authorities. The new laws in Arizona have made a lot of people in my state very nervous. Then, through a random act of violence, this hard working man is all of a sudden looking up at three flavors of uniforms from the light bar fraternity — pretty much his worst nightmare. Possibly that’s why he declined the Morphine — he wants to keep his wits about him as he’ll be answering a lot of questions for the next few hours.
He was also evasive when I asked his address. I need it for my paperwork as we picked him up from a random corner. I was thinking my pigeon Spanish wasn’t working so I typed the question into my iPad and it spoke it to him in a very suave Spanish voice. It practically scared him to death. I don’t think this guy has much contact with technology. And to have an iPad ask him where he lives was too much.
We roll him into the same trauma hospital where the officer is still in surgery upstairs. Sitting in the triage room I get the attention of the triage nurse by squeezing the horn which is still attached to Jose’s pants. She gives me the coldest stare possible. Crap, I’ll be blackballed on the nurse network by the time I clear the hospital.
As we roll him into the room we are met by his nurse. She’s a traveler that I haven’t seen here before. We have a nursing shortage in the state so many temp workers from other states — and even out of country — are paid a premium to relocate and work in our hospitals for six months at a time. She’s probably brand new to the city, and she has a thick English accent. She greets him and he shakes his head.
“He doesn’t speak English.”
“Well what language does he speak?”
“Welsh…” I can pull off a deadpan delivery pretty well.
She stares at me with a confused look for a while until I tell her it’s Spanish. If she sticks around she’ll eventually get my humor and she’ll be speaking pigeon medical Spanish. I tell her what happened and finish by telling her that he’s very scared right now and what I suspect the cause may be. She calls for a translator to reassure him that his immigration status has no bearing on our treatment and we do not share records with INS.
On the way out I get an update from the underground nurse network that the officer is in critical yet stable condition. The news from dispatch is that the shooter is still at large. Back at the rig there are a few clean cut guys in casual clothes standing by the ER entrance.
One of them asks me how to get in to the ED. I ask if he’s with East Side PD; he nods. My heart goes out to these guys. It was just like this last year when the four officers were shot. All of the off-duty guys showed up at the ED. You need a uniform to get past security to the ED so I escort them through the hospital to the area where they usually set up a room for these guys.
What does it say about the city that they actually have a protocol in the hospital to accommodate this kind of tragedy?
24 hours later the shooter was taken into custody without incident as he attempted to cross the Mexican border. It appears that the officer may recover.