Over the last few years we’ve seen a number of state legislators around the country introduce bills that allow EMTs, paramedics, and firefighters to be armed while they’re on the job. First responders may show up at crime scenes or emergencies before police officers, and can face aggressive and violent individuals without any means of self-defense. That’s one reason why legislation in West Virginia was overwhelmingly approved in 2018.
“Definitely the drug epidemic is making it worse,” Delegate David Pethtel, who helped introduce the bill, said. “They don’t know what type of situation they’re going to come under.”
Pethtel said first responders came to him about the issue.
“They told me that they have transported people by ambulance before and when they got to the hospital sometimes hospital personnel removed weapons from them,” Pethtel said.
Fire Chief Dave Caudill said he fully supports the bill as it helps keep first responders safe.
“On more than one occasion, I’ve had a knife pulled on me inside a house with basically nowhere to escape to,” Chief Caudill said. “It’s a very dangerous world out there and you really never know what you’re going to get into. It’s not for everybody to do, but the ones who have the ability and have the training. It would be a way to protect our people and also to protect the public.”
This isn’t just a theoretical exercise, as a recent incident in Pine Bluff, Arkansas shows us. Earlier this week two paramedics were shot after the boyfriend of a woman who was receiving treatment became violent towards them. Thankfully, one of the paramedics was able to fight back.
Paramedic Joshua Godfrey, 35, was sitting in the back of an ambulance bleeding and John Spriggs Sr., 21, was lying on the ground beside the ambulance when police arrived, the release states.
The paramedics told officers they were rendering aid in the back of the ambulance to a 20-year-old woman complaining of knee pain, when her boyfriend, Kevin Curl Jr., walked up to them “aggressively,” police said.
Spriggs told police Curl refused to back up, and pushed him and asked what he was going to do about it, police said. Spriggs punched Curl, who then pulled out a gun and shot both paramedics approximately three times each in the chest, pelvic and abdomen areas, according to the news release.
Spriggs was able to return fire with his own gun, hitting Curl in the chest at least once. Curl retreated inside a nearby home, and when officers arrived they found him dead on the kitchen floor of the residence.
While police continue to investigate, at this point it would appear to be clear-cut case of self-defense. Curl, according to the paramedics, was the first to use physical force as well as the first to use deadly force, and the 21-year old paramedic only used his gun after he himself had been struck by Curl’s bullets.
It sounds like the two paramedics are thankfully going to recover from their injuries, but their story is a perfect example of why first responders, even those not in law enforcement, need to be able to protect and defend themselves and others while on the job. Paramedics don’t need to have the power to arrest people, but they shouldn’t lose their right of self-defense when they clock in.