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Suspect Sought in Stolen Ambulance Incident

Tuesday's late-night crime had fast written all over it. We had fast food, a fast theft, a fast joyride and a fast escape.

Now the Concord police hope for a fast conclusion, after an ambulance from the Hillsboro Fire Department was stolen while emergency personnel were inside a McDonald's.The police have made no arrests. They're looking for a black man about 6-foot-1.

We have a few nuggets of information thanks to Sgt. John Thomas of the Concord Police Department, Hillsboro fire Chief Ken Stafford and residents of a West Street apartment building in the city's south end. That's where the ambulance crashed a few minutes before midnight and a few seconds after the crime.

We know a paramedic and two EMTs delivered a patient to Concord Hospital late Tuesday night. We know they then stopped at McDonald's for dinner after a long day of work.

We know they left the doors to the ambulance unlocked and the engine running before they went inside. We know someone hopped in and drove the ambulance down West Street, a one-way, for about 200 yards and turned into one of two driveways at 16-18 West Street.

We know the ambulance circled behind the apartment, an aging duplex in need of a paint job, and tried to zip out the other driveway and back on to West Street. And we know the Hamburglar is not a suspect.

"Surveillance is part of the investigation," Thomas said. "We're looking into that right now, looking at all local businesses and residences that might have had video."

No one saw the actual crash, and only one person living at the address, a man named Charlie, saw someone race from the ambulance and bolt away.

Charlie, a cook at a local restaurant, worked late last night and was unavailable for comment.But his neighbors, Jim Fitzpatrick, 25, and his girlfriend, 24- year-old Sara Richard, heard, felt and saw the results of the accident. He and the couple's roommate, drummer Corey Cain, were on their way home from a late-night jam when Richard texted Fitzpatrick, just minutes from home.

"She says there's an ambulance in our driveway and it hit our porch, and that's all I got from her," Fitzpatrick said. "Then I pull in and there's an ambulance in our driveway."

The ambulance struck a beam that supports the porch, causing a few scrapes of yellow on the wood, but leaving little visible damage to the building.

The ambulance, though, wasn't as lucky.

"The fender skirt over the wheel well and the emergency lights on that side were damaged," Stafford said. "There were scratches and gouges in the paint and a couple of dents in the body itself. He basically attacked us as far as I'm concerned."

Price tag: thousands of dollars, according to Stafford.Richard, a professional artist, was painting in her studio at the front of the apartment when the ambulance dropped by out back.Her first thought was a medical emergency.

"I heard a big crash, a bang at the front of the apartment and I was really confused," Richard said. "I didn't want to get in the way if there was an emergency. I thought my neighbor called it and the people in the ambulance were just in a big hurry to get here."

Not the case.

"There was no one out there, and there were no lights," Richard continued. "It was just an ambulance sitting outside. There was no one moving around inside."

That's because the driver had already gotten out and sprinted down West Street. Fitzpatrick called the cops soon after he arrived. West Street quickly resembled a dance club. "The whole cavalry showed up," Richard said. "Fire trucks and a lot of police cars and a lot of lights."

Now the Concord police are looking for a suspect. "This person can be charged with an array of things," Thomas said. "There can be charges like unauthorized use of a motor vehicle, theft by unauthorized taking, leaving the scene of an accident. We're still in the early stages."

Meanwhile, the Hillsboro Fire Department is reassessing its policy on unattended ambulances, realizing that a happy meal can turn bad before you can say Mayor McCheese.

"Unfortunately, with the criminal element that's out there, I guess we're going to have to change the way we do things," Stafford said. "We'll have to implement some new standard operating guidelines."

Still, Stafford backed his crew for leaving the doors unlocked and the engine running. He said equipment like a heart monitor needs constant charging to function properly.

"We just leave it running and run in for food, the way we've done it for so many years," Stafford said. "I hope they catch him. Who would think of stealing an ambulance?"


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