First Responders: “Routine” Becomes Life or Death in an Instant

First Responders: “Routine” Becomes Life or Death in an Instant

By Steve Pomper

Connecticut State Police

Just saying first responders, cops and firefighters, don’t get enough credit for the risks they take seems insufficient. A throw-away line politicians use during campaigns. But a recent incident captured on Connecticut State Police (CSP) dash cam video brings to life one of these harrowing stories of the unexpected that hovers above first-responders about as well as anything could.

We see and hear stories about law enforcement officers and firefighters risking their lives capturing criminals, fighting fires, and rescuing people. But we don’t often think of those times when officers or firefighters are handling “under-control” incidents when things go suddenly sideways—in this case, literally because slid sideways is what the suspect driver’s car did.

Recently, Connecticut state troopers and Cromwell firefighters were dealing with the aftermath of a vehicle collision in Cromwell, Connecticut. On the video, it appears to be a low-stress scene, with first responders moving casually, dealing with routine collision investigation tasks.

The vehicle traffic appears to be driving carefully past the crash scene. Suddenly, a 2014 Honda Accord, swerves off the roadway, backwards into the video frame, striking a firefighter, hurling him through the air where he slams into a state trooper, both landing in a heap off the road.

First responders already on scene provided immediate medical aid to the injured cop and firefighter. The driver of the Honda who allegedly hit the men was not injured. “State police said the driver of the Honda, identified as a 43-year-old Manchester resident, was charged with ‘numerous motor vehicle violations’ in the crash. The exact charges against him were not immediately available.” 

According to The Middletown Press, the state police said the driver of the Honda “lost control on the curved roadway, traveled through the grass gore area and entered from the side of the scene of the prior motor vehicle accident.”

The driver’s car struck Cromwell Firefighter Jon Anthony Bicking and CSP Trooper William Atkins. The Press said, “Bicking was seriously hurt, while Atkins sustained minor injuries… Both were taken to Hartford Hospital.”

This story should remind us of all those emergencies first responders may encounter while on non-emergency incidents because, though cops and firefighters have lots of surprises in their jobs, when doing something routine is when people, even first responders, least expect surprises. No one can’t expect the unexpected every time.

Washington State Patrol

I think about the Washington state trooper in Long Beach, Washington, back in 2010. Also at a collision scene, he was simply waiting for a tow truck to arrive to hook one of the cars. A suspect suddenly walked up to that trooper, who was conducting a simple inventory check of the vehicle contents and shot him in the head. Remarkably, the trooper survived his wounds.

Cops can tell you stories of responding to noise complaints, parking violations, or anything that becomes serious in a heartbeat. Investigating a parking violation when suddenly you hear shots fired from a nearby house. You find yourself ducking for cover, drawing your weapon, and eventually first on scene to investigate a murder.

I remember heading into the “barn” after a long shift. I thought I’d avoided any late calls and would get out on time. As I was turning from the street to enter the precinct parking garage, I was driving across the sidewalk when a woman hurled herself onto the hood of my patrol car. Talk about shifting gears. Lying on my car, looking at me, wide-eyed, she screamed that her ex-husband was trying to kill her.

Precinct entrance where DV victim jumped on my car. Photo from during CHOP/CHAZ debacle 2020

Instead of going home on time, I had a DV literally land on my car. 

So, it could have been worse. I didn’t know it, but the husband had run away. The screaming woman on my hood had my head on a 360 swivel, looking for an enraged ex and wondering by what means he intended to “kill her.”

No homicidal ex-hubby in sight, the woman told me her ex-husband had learned where she was living, called her, and said he was coming to kill her. So, rather than call 911, she jumped into her car, drove to the precinct, parked out front, and bolted from her car. But she ran past the precinct doors, down along the side of the precinct, finally swan diving onto my patrol car.

Talk about calm to storm. Fortunately, an armed ex-hubby hadn’t arrived at my car with her, but it could have happened that way. In fact, I think the next time I’m out with buddies telling “war stories,” I’ll tell it that way. It’s better, right?

Every cop has these stories, so we don’t forget the unexpected is a part of the job. But it’s good for the public to think about it occasionally to understand the broader scope of the risks cop’s take on while doing the job.