Nation & World News

Police Officer Arrests Firefighter At Accident Scene In California

By Bill Chappell on February 5th, 2014

How do we explain the arrest of a firefighter by a police officer at the scene of an accident — after an argument over where a fire truck should park? The authorities are still discussing the incident, which took place Tuesday night on California’s I-805, where a car had rolled over at the center road barrier.

As San Diego’s CBS 8 TV reports, an argument broke out between a California Highway Patrol officer and a firefighter from Chula Vista, as they clashed over where the Chula Vista crew’s fire engine should be stationed. Firefighters had placed their vehicle along the center road divider, close to where a car had flipped over, and behind an ambulance. Emergency personnel tended to the car’s two occupants as the conflict went on around them.

CBS 8’s cameras captured the incident, which ended with the firefighter being handcuffed and placed in the back of a police cruiser.

The firefighter, Jacob Gregoire, 36, was held in the police car for about 30 minutes before being released, CBS 8 says. The station posted video showing Gregoire talking to the news crew to be sure they knew what was taking place.

“Hey, I just want to let you know, he’s arresting me for not moving the fire truck,” Gregoire can be heard yelling.

And with that, he was handcuffed. Despite the unusual situation and the disagreement it followed, the firefighter and police officer aren’t seen exhibiting much aggression toward one another in the video, which shows them talking as Gregoire is led away.

The fire department’s chief tells CBS 8 that while the CHP would have jurisdiction over a scene on the interstate, it wasn’t yet clear whether the police had claimed control when the dispute escalated. The fire truck was reportedly the first to arrive at the scene.

Members of the CHP and the Chula Vista fire department held a meeting Wednesday to discuss the conflict. A statement released by Fire Chief Dave Hanneman praises the fire department’s members for not escalating the tension:

“In an emergency, the Chula Vista Fire Department is responsible for the safety and care of the injured victims and for the safety of the crew. Our goal at an emergency is to secure the scene and begin emergency care and transport victims to the hospital as soon as possible. Last night, there were two injured passengers our crew needed to reach and treat in a rollover vehicle accident on Interstate 805. One of our firefighters on the scene was detained by the California Highway Patrol. I am very proud of how Engineer Jacob Gregoire and the other firefighters on the scene handled the situation. While we work very well together with the CHP 99% of the time, we need to find out what happened last night and how we can improve training and communication to prevent something like this from happening in the future.”

The CHP hasn’t released a statement about the incident.

Thanks to NPR Senior Editor Susan Vavrick for sending this story our way.

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