As we clear from EPS we are sent further from the big city and the chaos that has already started to get ugly. Our first deployment of tac-medic units are already at the staging area near downtown. They are getting pared up with their counterparts in PD and FD to create mobile task forces for civil unrest response.
I’m scheduled for the second deployment which should be in maybe ten hours, only two hours after finishing this shift. This could be a very long day.
As we drive away from the city we are monitoring four radio frequencies: our regular EMS station, EMS tac-channel, PD tac-channel, and local news reports on an AM station.
The crowds have grown to over 500 with smaller groups smashing store fronts, looting businesses, and setting garbage dumpsters on fire. PD is maneuvering skirmish lines of police in riot gear to contain the worst of them. On the PD tac-channel we hear the yelling from the crowd, the bottles smashing as they are throne at the officers, the M-1000s exploding near the skirmish line (very large firecrackers throne by the rioters.) Three armed men are maneuvering in the crowd; they have paper masks with the depiction of the face of the man killed by an officer just 18 months ago. The officers give the order to don gas masks, they ignite smoke grenades at their position to cover a strategic redeployment (retreat).
The dispatcher comes up giving us a call. We’re in the city furthest from the chaos so it will be unrelated to the craziness going on thirty miles away. With all of the radio traffic going on at once we couldn’t hear the nature of our call. I turn down the extra frequencies and ask our dispatcher to repeat our call information.
“You’re responding to a male patient, victim of a shooting, your scene is not secure, please stage out.” Seriously? In this city, what the hell!
Before we get to the neighborhood our dispatcher comes up again. “You’re scene is now secure, PD is on scene, you’re clear to enter.” Fabulous…
As shootings go this was about as basic as they come; a man in his twenties, wearing the wrong color shirt in the wrong neighborhood, shot by three men in a moving car that sped away. It’s your classic drive by shooting. Strange how I take comfort in the familiar at times like this. It’s a small caliber GSW (gun shot wound), apparently through and through, to the calf. It may or may not have grazed the bone but everything distal to the wound is moving and perfusing. Bleeding is controlled with just a few pieces of gauze and a wrap of kurlex. I would give him some morphine for the pain but he came pre-medicated with alcohol and weed. I just need to monitor him for changes while transporting him to the ED.
I load him up and take him code-2 to the nearest hospital. Perspective is an amazing thing. This county has so many GSWs (3 in the last two hours) that we don’t even trauma activate the patient if the wound is below the elbow or knee. These patients get a slow ride to any basic ED. Once I arrive and give a quick report to the charge nurse she orders a lock down of the ED. All visitors are told to leave; more security guards are positioned at the closed entrances which are secured. They are protecting the victim, and staff, from any potential follow-up violence.
It’s happened before; gang-bangers returning to the scene of a shooting when they realize they didn’t quite kill the guy, or walking into the ED to finish the job. Another paramedic in county was holding c-spine (hands on either side of the patient’s head to prevent spinal injury) when a shooter returned and shot his patient point blank in the head, the bullet passing within inches of both of the paramedic’s hands.
Sitting at the EMS desk in the ER I’m working on my paperwork for this call while listening to the PD tac-channel on my portable radio. The riots are getting worse; more arrests, more fires, more looting. The tension in the officers voice is high as I’m listening to them redeploy platoons to box in the most violent of the rioters. Nurses and doctors walk over to stand close enough to listen to the traffic on my portable radio exchanging worried looks between themselves and texting love ones to let them know they are okay.
Clearing the hospital we are told to report to our main deployment on the edge of the big city. It’s near the end of this shift and they are switching me to another unit to head into the city. Katie is relieved as she’ll be going home soon. I’m not sure what I’m feeling as I prepare my equipment on the drive back towards the chaos.