A Columbus (OH) firefighter said the shock of seeing a police shootout end in a fire-station parking lot on Wednesday morning was quickly replaced by professionalism and training, reports The Columbus Dispatch.
"It's hard to process everything that you're seeing, feeling, hearing when 15 seconds earlier, you were in a dead sleep and you wake up to a popping sound that's very close and you know that it's gunshots," said Gary Greiner, a 32-year veteran.
But within minutes, firefighters went from taking cover in the locked-down station to responding to the call just outside their door.
"It's kind of disbelief, and then training takes over and we know what we need to do," said Lt. Ken Peters.
Greiner's pickup truck, parked in the Fire Station 19 lot at Northmoor Place and N. High Street in Clintonville, and two other firefighters' personal vehicles were hit by bullets in the confrontation between Columbus police and two people in a fleeing SUV.
The SUV plowed through the station's bushes and stopped in the parking lot. When the barrage of gunfire was over and a man lay handcuffed on the ground, the police turned to the medics who were watching.
"They looked toward the firehouse like, are you guys coming out?" Peters said. Peters and Greiner met with the news media yesterday to describe the scene.
Seven firefighters and medics were at the station at the time, three hours from the end of their shift, and most were asleep. Two medics had just returned from a run and were filling out paperwork when the shots got closer.
"I feel very lucky for my medic crew," Peters said. "They had just gotten back from the hospital. They would have been right in the middle of it if it had been two, three, four minutes earlier."
Those same medics went out to pronounce Emmanuel Gatewood, 24, and his girlfriend, Kourtney Hahn, 21, dead. Gatewood was a suspect in an April homicide, and police had been alerted to look for the SUV. When officers tried to pull it over, the SUV took off and one or both occupants fired at police during the four-block chase, police said.
While it was shocking that a shootout happened so close to the firehouse, what took place next was not unusual for firefighters.
"We have all been through this, responding to shooting scenes and accident scenes," Peters said. The drill on Wednesday was the same: "reacting with your training and doing what you need to do and then leaving it to the police department."
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