Firefighter responding to crash victims, handcuffed by California Highway Patrol

Charlene Sakoda
Odd News

A violent rollover accident in Chula Vista, California on the 805 freeway was responded to by firefighters, and ended up with a first responder in handcuffs. Firefighter Jacob Gregoire and his fire crew were on the scene after the crash was reported, shortly before 9:30 p.m. According to The San Diego Union-Tribune, the crew positioned the fire engine to guard the victims being loaded inside the ambulance. Chula Vista Fire Chief, Dave Hanneman said “Our firefighters are trained to use the engine to protect the scene.” He added, "Our No. 1 priority is the safety of our firefighters and patients.”

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When a California Highway Patrol (CHP) officer arrived on the scene he instructed Gregoire to move the fire truck from the center divide (where it was shielding the ambulance and the injured). Conflicting reports say that Gregoire told the officer he would have to check with his captain before moving the fire truck, and others say that he refused and returned to administer aid to those involved in the crash. A KFMB CBS News 8 camera caught the outcome of their interaction. Gregoire, a 12 year firefighting veteran was handcuffed and detained by the CHP officer in the back of a patrol car for approximately 30 minutes.

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Fire Chief Hanneman told The San Diego Union-Tribune, “We work on a chain of command…The officer said, ‘No, you need to move now or you’ll be arrested.’” Supervisors from CHP and the Chula Vista Fire Department were called in and Gregoire was released.

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The two crash victims were transported to the hospital for treatment, however the extent of their injuries are unknown.

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“To detain one of our firefighters in the middle of an incident is ridiculous. And it, it doesn’t, provide the good customer service, the good public service that both our agencies are there to do,” said Chief Hanneman. “If the officer was going to take command of the incident then he has the ability to do that because they (CHP) have jurisdiction. I don’t know that that occurred yet because he just got on scene. So all those are questions that need to be asked.” Jake Sanchez, a spokesperson for the CHP told the Union-Tribune, “Right now, everything is under review.”

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KFMB notes that representatives from both agencies are meeting today to discuss details about the incident.

Chula Vista Fire Department’s chief released the following statement:

"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."

At the time of this post, no statement had been released by CHP representatives.

Video and more info: KFMB, The San Diego Union-Tribune