Gunman sought for shooting at paramedics in Sarasota

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Bullet holes in the side of an ambulance are a scary reminder of how close two paramedics in Sarasota County came to becoming victims themselves.

The person who shot at them is still on the run. Meanwhile, first responders across the Bay Area are reflecting on the dangers of their jobs.

"It’s heart-wrenching. I can put myself into the responders' shoes," said Chief Paul DiCiccio with Manatee County EMS. "I didn't respond to that call... but you always put yourself back into their shoes. How would I have done? I couldn't imagine. It’s crazy."

The call came Monday morning. 

"Help. I need help. Please send help. I fell really hard," someone said to a 911 dispatcher.

It was an automated call for a slip and fall call from a device that detects such incidents. 

But when two Sarasota County paramedics got to Goodrich Avenue, they were face-to-face with a hooded gunman.

The call itself alarms first responders in Sarasota and the Bay Area.

"When that call came in, there was some very different oddities to that 911 call that they immediately picked up on, and they alerted us right after that call happened," said Chief Jake Saur with the Manatee County 911 Center.

He said new technology like text to 911 and automated calls from devices like the Apple Watch watches are becoming more frequent.

As for the call that came into Sarasota, it sounds similar to an automated call from an Apple Watch, but there are noticeable differences. 

"It wasn’t a slow understandable cadence. It was a different suspicion. We have, not to my knowledge, in either county, received one of those calls," said Chief Saur. "We are getting into a different realm. Typically someone picks up the phone and dials 911. We are able to speak to them and fish out things about that 911 call."

"As a nation, as a country, we’ve seen a lot more violent crime and those crimes impact the first responders, especially in the case that we’ve seen down in Sarasota," said Chief DiCiccio, who added that every call comes with risks. "The lower calls like medical alarms, or where somebody fell out of bed and just needs help up, those calls can turn into your most outrageous disaster even if you’re not careful." 

These kinds of technology have become an important part of first responder training. 

"Every call we on we have a heightened sense of awareness. We protect ourselves and that’s always in the back of our minds," DiCiccio said. 

After the paramedics were attacked, more safety protocols have been put in place not only for Sarasota County but for Manatee which is just a mile and a half down the road from where the shooting took place. 

"We've done multiple conference calls to figure out what is the best approach and best practice in case this comes into manatee county or this goes somewhere else," said Chief Jake Saur with Manatee County 911.