Unknown suspect flees after firing shots at Sarasota paramedics, police say

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As paramedics responded to an emergency call at a Sarasota home, shots were fired in their direction, police said. Neither were injured, but officials are searching for a suspect. 

"I heard the gunshots. I heard about five of them. I heard the paramedic truck and then the boys said, ‘I thought they heard somebody run through the yard,’" recalled neighbor Bernestine Mapps. 

After receiving a report that an individual had fallen, first responders with the Sarasota County Fire Department responded to a home in the 2900 block of Goodrich Avenue around 4 a.m. Monday. However, they were told by the resident that they did not call 911, police said.

The call appears to have come from an automated app. 

"Help. I need help. Please send help. I fell really hard," the 911 call said. 

Once they were back inside the ambulance, police said, an unknown man wearing a hoodie fired a weapon at the vehicle. As the two paramedics drove away, at least two bullets struck the front driver's-side door. 

No one was injured, detectives said, but there was minor damage to the ambulance. 

"Unfortunately in today’s day and age, just wearing a uniform or being in an emergency vehicle with lights and sirens can make you a target," said Sarasota Police Deputy Chief Pat Robinson. 

The individual fled on foot and has not been located. It's unclear whether the suspect lives in the neighborhood, or knew the paramedics.

There were no law enforcement officers when the two first responders arrived. County and city officials said the shooting will change how paramedics will respond to emergency calls, but did not provide details in order to protect first responders in future cases. 

“I don’t want to speculate, but these are folks out here trying to do what’s right for their community," offered Chief Robinson. "When they come under assault, it’s an assault on this entire community…and to the first responders in this entire country.

As officers work to uncover who's behind the call and why they fired, concern grows in the neighborhood. 

"It's kind of scary because it could be a real emergency and paramedics could be afraid to come out here without police officers on their trail. I’d be scared to, to be honest. I really would," said resident Tearria Thomas. 

Detectives said they are following up on a number of leads, but anyone with information is asked to call the Sarasota Police Department at (941) 316-1199.