Assaulted Paramedic Supervisor Caught on Camera; What We Can Learn

Assaulted Paramedic Supervisor  Caught on Camera. Let’s breakdown the possibilities of “Why” to prevent future attacks.

*Keep checking back for updates to this one!!

I have to say “possibilities” because human conflict is dynamic. No tool/tactic or technique is 100% successful all the time.

I have recently spoken to Jason (the assaulted provider in this video) and have obtained some further insight. I would like to say I found Jason to sound very educated, polite and professional while speaking to him about not only this incident but his career as paramedic. So much so I have invited him to consider attending one of our instructor classes because I believe he has the right attitude to help change the culture.

*Disclaimer* At no time do we at DT4EMS make light of any

  • assault on EMS/Fire or ED staff.
  • Nor do we make jokes about how staff should use force on the job.
  • We use any real scene footage, interviews- be it by media or actual face to face- to better understand the dynamics of how a situation unfolded. It is our hope to use the things we learn to better prepare staff to prevent, defend and/or escape future use-of-force incidents.

First watch this video. We will discuss some of the dynamics involved after you do.

UPDATED* 3-8-2014

I spoke to Jason on the phone for about 1.5 hours. He provided me with a little more of the back-story. Here are some key point from our conversations. (I have asked Jason to write up anything he would like added to this blog post. It will be updated with his statements when he does.)

  • He responded as a supervisor due to two helicopters being brought in to fly out patients.
  • He immediately noticed the attacker was staring at him personally.
  • The attacker was making comments regarding how EMS had killed a family member (not related to this particular crash).
  • The attacker was later found to be in possession of several drugs.
  • He stated he had a gut feeling there was going to be a “fight” and it wasn’t going to be good.
  • He admitted he was attempting to assist law enforcement.
  • He admitted most of his training for the use-of-force on the job was obtained from on-the-job experience, not formal training. Folks, learning to use force, in the middle of a use-of-force incident is dangerous. But that is where most of staff are getting their training. See CRITICAL THINKING
  • Jason has since attended the police academy and became certified as a police officer. We discussed multiple issues he agreed are lacking in EMS regarding understanding what we can and cannot do regarding the use-of-force on the job.

 Below are suggestions based upon generalized “tactics” (aside from techniques) one can employ. These suggestions are based upon the video we can see, and other incidents we have intimate knowledge of , based upon our years of researching EMS/Fire and ED on-the-job assaults.

What did the media call this?

They called it a street fight. Why was it not called an assault on a paramedic, or paramedic had to defend himself from an attacker etc? For one, the news media usually says what it says to grab your attention. Also, in my educated opinion, it could be due to the physical skills used  (we could see punches traded- not that a punch is wrong in self-defense-it is that it can give the appearance of a fight)  and possibly the verbal skills we could not hear. This is why preparation for the media event is so critical.

How sure did the supervisor respond when questioned?
I have shown this video to literally hundreds and hundreds of EMS/Fire and nursing staff. They all say he was not believable when he stated he was taught to defend himself. His response may be he was nervous, being a supervisor and talking about the use of force, or maybe he didn’t truly believe he received sufficient training to dealing with violence EMS truly faces on the job.  When speaking with Jason, he admitted to little or no actual training for the on-the-job violent encounter. This would certainly explain why he responded the way he did to the questioning. He also discussed how being on camera changed things both in what he said and how he acted.

“Who” was dealing with the bystander?
Don’t you think it is strange the paramedic supervisor felt compelled to deal with the guy when there were officers on scene? I can assure you I have found many incidents where EMS/Fire are trying to “help” with little or no formal training in dealing with the dynamics of human conflict. Police officers understand because of training, that as long as the person is not interfering… let them vent. Another big problem is many times law enforcement believe we have more training than what we do when it comes to the use of force. In speaking with Jason, he confirmed he was compelled to intervene/assist in something he had no real prior training on how to handle. He admitted he was trying to “help” the officers.

Do you or your staff feel compelled to intervene in situations they have no training for?

How did the supervisor sound when asked how he was?
Did he sound like he was in a punitive mood now when he responded with “I’m Grrrrreeeat”? Adrenaline can get the best of us. In any use of force, especially on the job, we have to be aware everything we say or do may be judged at a later date. I can completely understand why he said what he said and the way he said it. But could it be twisted later?
When I asked Jason about the statement, he responded with what he stated he could, at the time, because he was aware of the cameras being on him. That his immediate thought was swearing about the fact he was just punched (a criminal act) by a person suspected of being high on drugs. I typed it as polite as I could, but I am sure you can understand what he was explaining.

Ultimately, why did this medic supervisor get punched?
There are multiple things we talk about in class that may have prevented the strike from ever taking place. Here is a shortened version.

1) Should not have been there in the first place. Don’t get your britches in a twist. Providers more often than not feel “compelled to help”.  It is in our DNA. We try to fix anything and everything. Don’t take that wrong. According to the NAEMT 52% of EMS providers have been assaulted on the job. Our research shows a majority happened on supposed “safe scenes”.

2) Since he was compelled to intervene (help), a minimum safe distance from a person displaying aggressive body language and verbal warnings is 6-8 feet (for unarmed aggressor). Trying to apply systems of training not designed for the EMS/Fire or ED scene is one of the reasons providers are getting too close to non-patients. See Patient or Attacker

3) From a safe distance the use of good verbal skills, addressing why EMS was doing what they were doing and would have the road open soon (because the guy was obviously mad about being stuck in traffic and claiming EMS killed a family member) could have re-directed the attackers focus. Good verbal skills captured on camera can be our “proof” we were not wanting to be in a “strange street fight”. Welcome to your new reality.

4) Once the gap was closed, the Jason unfortunately had his hands down at his side. I don’t know of a martial arts or self-defense program worth it’s weight in salt that would teach you to stand with your hands down at your side, while within striking range, of an attacker who is “woofing”. Although there is a system widely taught to medical professionals that teaches staff to keep their hands down. Again, this is addressed because of the way Jason made the politically correct statement of “trained to defend our self”. This is a common failure of our culture. Simply attending a short lecture on how to restrain someone with soft-restraints or the three slides of a presentation on violence in the EMT curriculum is NOT the same as mission specific training for the use-of-force incidents we face on the job.

5) In my opinion there is also an overlooked, under-discussed reason; street cred. I think when you watch the video, over and over, it really looks as if the guy never actually wanted to hit him. It is almost as if he is going “C’mon man (bark-bark), if you ain’t gonna back up, now I am going to have to hit you”. We have pressure tested this behavior in front of crowds all across the country. Many times providers, when placed on the spot, won’t back up. When asked they ultimately respond with some sort of “not wanting to be rude”. Again, not an isolated issue with this video. This suspected “street cred” behavior was pretty much confirmed when Jason advised me the attacker immediately “gave up” when placed on the ground.

See STFU and BTFU.

I found it “proof” about our culture (JADED) when I asked Jason about what people said after the incident. He stated people made fun of him and commented on how he obviously couldn’t hit very hard because he was unable to “knock-out” his attacker. We don’t make fun of anyone injured during other hazards on our job, but boy we sure do when it comes to any use-of-force.

This is only one incident. This one just happened to be captured on video. We keep a record of assaults on staff.


*UPDATE 2/22/2014 and 3/8/2014
Thanks to social media, the victim Jason Duncan commented on the page regarding this blog post. Here are the questions I posted asking if he would be kind enough to answer. Again, we all learn from this.

I would be honored if Jason would answer these questions. We, just like the blog post says, use interviews like this to help make EMS safer for all.


1) If you have every written down your story I would love to have it. Otherwise feel free to tell a narrative version here:

2) Jason you stated you had been assaulted in the past on the job, this was the first for a random third person- Do you believe assaults on staff is frequent?

3) When the reporter asked you what you were taught to do when attacked, you don’t sound convincing in your reply. Can you clarify why do you think that is?

4) What was your perception when they “guy just walked up” and started removing his clothing and watch?

5) Did the previous training you had to deal with on-the-job use of force tell you to stand with your arms down at your side? The reason I ask is the largest system taught to healthcare teaches just that.

6) Did you have cooperative training with law enforcement on the mechanics of arrest and control (takedowns and handcuffing)?

7) Why do you think your local media repeatedly called it a street fight? I have dozens of other news reports that do not say that type of phrase after a paramedic was assaulted.

8) What were you feeling, truly feeling the moment you responded with “I’m Great?”

9) Where you surprised when you were actually struck? What was the immediate thought in your mind?

10) Why did you feel compelled to go over to the guy? What did you “feel” as you got closer? What were some of the verbal skills used?

11) You are big/strong male, would you have expected a smaller female supervisor to have acted the same way you did? Please explain your answer-

12) Did you ever, even for a moment wrestle with the feeling to backup, but stayed in place?

13) After the incident, do you feel you were supported by peers, admin and the legal system?

14) Since your incident have you made changes in the way you look at our job, at people in general?

15) Has your agency implemented any new policies or training for staff to handle these types of situations?

16) Did anybody in EMS say things like “I would have whacked him with an O2 Bottle” to you after the incident?

17) If the exact same scenario occurred today, would you have done anything differently? If yes, what would it be?

In closing, hopefully this post serves as a reminder to do mental preparation for the violent encounter because it does happen. Simply role playing this very scenario over in your head and how to deal with it reasonably is mental preparation in itself. From what we can see in the video, the medic was physically OK after the fact. But like we have said so many times- you don’t have to die from an assault on the job to be changed forever.

Also, this post should serve to prove that what we are saying here at DT4EMS, that you must prepare for all 4 battles of every violent encounter (Mind, Street, Media and Courtroom). We share a lot of this information in our various BLOG posts.


Don’t just take my word for what it is we do, look at what professionals from all over the US have to say about DT4EMS’ EVE courses. TESTIMONIALS