JEMS.com Editor's Note: The term "ambulance driver" is used by this newspaper in their article, not JEMS.com. We note its use in this copyrighted article but feel the update on colleague Patrick Bierman's status is too important to miss because of the inappropriate term used by the paper.
St. LOUIS -- An ambulance driver who was shot on the job in East St. Louis was in fair condition at St. Louis University Hospital Tuesday after doctors pulled a slug from his arm. A second bullet, lodged in the driver's chest, remains.
"It's so unfortunate," said Charles H. Kelley Jr., president of MedStar Ambulance. "We're there to take care of people."
The driver, Patrick Bierman, 23, is the first MedStar employee to be shot on the job. Kelley said Bierman graduated from Northern Illinois University on Saturday; it was unclear whether Bierman was there during the shooting rampage that took place there on Valentine's Day. Bierman had worked for MedStar about two months.
Bierman, an emergency medical technician, was shot while transporting another shooting victim. Kelley said he planned to talk with area police departments about getting police escorts when ambulances take crime victims to hospitals, for the safety of the injured, and that of MedStar employees.
"We always have concerns about our guys' safety," he said.
MedStar officials were briefly at odds last year with East St. Louis police over the company's policy not to respond to a crime scene until police have arrived and secured the area. Kelley said that's standard procedure for ambulance providers across the country. He said there were no such concerns in Washington Park after the Monday night shooting. He said the scene was safe when ambulances arrived.
Bierman's parents, Jerry and Paula Bierman, said in a statement that they had received hundreds of calls from friends, co-workers and health care providers throughout the area, expressing their good wishes and support.
"For that we are truly grateful," they said. "Ironically, this is National Emergency Medical Services Week, when we honor all of those who put the health and well-being of others before themselves each and every day. The fact that my son became a victim of violence is part of the sad reality of the world we live in and a reminder that EMS workers are on the 'front line' in our own community every day."
The incident began when two men, 21 and 22, were shot about 9 p.m. Monday as they sat in a car in the 1300 block of North 51st Street in Washington Park. Police declined to identify the victims.
About 9:40 p.m., shots were fired from a small red car into Bierman's MedStar ambulance as it was taking one of the victims to Kenneth Hall Regional Hospital in East St. Louis, State Police Lt. Mark Bramlett said. The shooting was on Interstate 64 near 25th Street.
Bierman, though shot twice, managed to turn over the drivers seat to another EMT, Bramlett said. No one else in the ambulance was hit, he said.
All three shooting victims remained in area hospitals today. Bramlett said one of the Washington Park men was wounded numerous times but said he thought all three victims were expected to live.
Bramlett said police don't know if the two shootings were related but that is one theory they are working on. He said police take all shootings seriously but said attacks on emergency responders are especially shocking.
"This is one we are working very hard right now," Bramlett said.