2 arrested in attack of Detroit first responders

Holly Fournier and Candice Williams
The Detroit News

Detroit — Police took a man into custody Tuesday evening in the assault of two emergency medical technicians, who came under attack by a man wielding a razor-sharp object as they helped a woman.

The man was arrested in the area of Whitcomb and Fenkell, police said. The woman, who initially was treated and fled with the man after the attack, also was arrested. Their relationship was unclear.

“Members of the Detroit Police Violent Crimes Task Force worked diligently throughout the day to identify, locate and apprehend the suspect responsible for the violent attack,” police said in a statement Tuesday. “The message is clear that we will not tolerate such violence in our city.”

The suspect is being held on a homicide warrant from an inactive 2006 case and a sexual assault warrant, police said.

As of Tuesday evening, EMT workers Kelly Adams, 49, and Alfredo Rojas, 25, remained in serious condition, said Detroit police Sgt. Cassandra Lewis.

Adams is being hailed for saving the life of a Rojas after the pair came under attack.

Mayor Mike Duggan, shortly after leaving Detroit Receiving Hospital where the two EMT workers are being treated, credited Adams’ actions for “saving the life” of her partner, Rojas.

“They were just trying to protect us,” he said. “This action, it touches all of us. They are in our prayers.”

Adams is a caring person with a love for dogs and rescuing strays, said acquaintance Danielle Bozich Haberstroh. In February, she reached out to friends on Facebook to collect bassinets and sleepers for the Coalition On Temporary Shelter, which she personally delivered, Haberstroh said.

“I think those both show what a huge heart she has and her compassion,” she said. “I was not surprised to hear she stepped up to help her partner because that is definitely something I think she would do.”

Rojas and Adams were responding to call of a woman with a minor ankle injury outside the Neighborhood Services Organization homeless shelter south of Midtown.

As they were treating the woman, a man who was with her became agitated about the medical assessment by the rescue workers, Interim Executive Fire Commissioner Eric Jones said.

“The EMTs told him to step back, calm down,” he said.

The man produced a sharp unknown weapon and stabbed and slashed Rojas several times in the hands and face, Jones said.

When Adams came to Rojas’ aid the man “turned and stabbed and slashed her several times,” Jones said.

After the attack, the EMTs rushed themselves to Detroit Receiving Hospital with “very serious injuries,” Jones said.

The two suffered deep lacerations, leaving behind a “horrific” scene inside their ambulance, he said.

Jones declined to speculate on a motive for the attack.

“I can’t get inside his head. I don’t know what he was agitated about but he was upset for some reason,” he said.

Rojas and Adams are able to communicate, but they likely will be scarred, Jones said.

“They came within inches of dying,” Jones said. “Both of them are going to require some extensive surgeries and a very long recovery.”

Dr. Padraic Sweeny of Detroit Receiving said he expects the two to recover.

Jones said he is “determined” to provide city emergency responders with further training — such as de-escalation and defensive tactics practices — to address potentially dangerous situations on the job.

EMT union leader Joe Barney said Adams and Rojas need prayers.

“There’s probably going to be a lengthy recovery. In some cases, they may not be normal again,” said Barney, fighting back tears.

Despite potential dangers, officials are not afraid to work in the city, Jones said.

“I wouldn’t say that (first responders) are nervous, but they’re concerned,” he said. “It’s dangerous. They go into some dangerous situations.”

Adams has been on the force for 13 years while Rojas joined about two years ago after serving five years with a suburban district.

A GoFundMe page set up for Adams and Rojas had raised $375 as of late Tuesday evening.

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Detroit News Staff Writers Louis Aguilar and the Associated Press contributed.