Assaults on firefighters happening more frequently

Assaults on firefighters happening more frequently

TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) - When Tucson firefighters are called out to help, the last thing they should be worried about is being attacked but it's happening more frequently.

The latest took place on Monday, April 30, when a man, armed with a machete, threatened a TFD crew treating an unconscious patient.

The dispatch was a routine call for medical assistance. A man was unconscious in a shopping center near St. Mary's and Silverbell. Firefighters were treating the patient when another man approached and tried giving him vodka.

The firefighters asked him to leave and that is when Tucson Fire Captain Patrick Bunker says things took a drastic and dangerous turn.

"The suspect turns around and gets into a defensive position and he puts his hand behind his back and that time we're like, 'hey man' and before we could say anything else he pulls out a machete and puts it in his hand and says, 'I'll 'F' your life up."

Bunker said he and his first engineer backed away as did the suspect, who's now been identified as 31 year-old Jason Coleman.

According to Bunker, Coleman walked away, but kept shouting obscenities. He said Coleman then began to run full speed ahead straight towards him.

"When he came full bore at us, it's like, it's on. It was extremely scary because when we took him down, we didn't know where the machete was. We had no idea where the machete was."

The other crew members saw what was happening and rushed over to help, forcing them to leave their patient, a difficult but necessary decision.

"Our concentration has to be on the patient," said Bunker. "You want us 100 percent concentrated on the patient, not at what's going on in the background and stuff."

Bunker said with more assaults like this happening, it's a cause for concern. "It's starting to get really super dangerous out here. We've had so many different incidents where our crews are being threatened. Where we're having to physically take people down. Where we're having to protect ourselves, when we normally haven't had to that in the past."

He was punched twice in the face but is OK. As for the patient, he was taken to the hospital, there was a half-empty bottle of vodka found next to him.

This latest assault is the third one that has resulted in an arrest since October, 2017. That's when 41-year-old Ebony Hurndon was arrested after she stabbed a different fire captain with a kitchen knife. His thick firecoat deflected the blade. She was naked at the time and was trying to cook her cat. She was sentenced to three years probation and 60 days in jail.

In December 2017, two firefighters were injured while trying to wrestle a knife away from a man they were treating. In that case, 40-year-old Humberto Rocha-Ortiz was sentenced to 2 1/2 years in prison for assaulting those firefighters.

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