Fire chief defends EMS driving cop to farther hospital

George Hunter
The Detroit News

Correction: This story has been updated to clarify that an emergency medical technician transported a wounded Detroit police officer to Beaumont Hospital, Oakwood, rather than two hospitals that were closer.

Amid questions why an ambulance driver took a wounded police officer to Beaumont Hospital, Oakwood rather than two closer hospitals on Sunday, the city’s fire commissioner said the emergency technician did the right thing.

The officer, a 14-year veteran, was with his partner responding to a domestic violence call when he knocked on the door of Oakman Apartments on the city's west side. Police say James Edward Ray opened fire, striking the officer in the face.

The wounded officer’s partner returned fire, killing Ray, police said.

Detroit police Chief James Craig said Tuesday the officer was slowly showing signs of recovery, although he remained in critical condition.

“I just left the hospital, and I was happy to hear he’s showing signs of improvement,” he said. “The swelling (on his brain) has subsided, so that’s a good sign. But he’s got a rocky road ahead. He’s still in a medically induced coma.”

An EMS crew that was nearby when the shooting occurred and responded quickly, Detroit Fire Commissioner Eric Jones said.

Some have questioned why the ambulance driver passed Henry Ford Hospital, 4.8 miles from the scene at 10071 Joy Road, and Sinai Grace Hospital, 5.1 miles away. Rather, the driver conveyed the officer to the Beaumont Hospital in Dearborn, 7.3 miles from the shooting.

Jones said the criticism is unwarranted.

“A lot of people are confusing time and distance,” Jones said. “Something can be a greater distance away, but you can get there faster. Oakwood is 13 to 16 minutes away, Henry Ford 11 to 12 minutes, and Sinai Grace 13 to 15 minutes. Well, (the ambulance driver) got there in 10 minutes.

“It was a judgment call, and I’m not going to Monday-morning quarterback his decision,” Jones said. “I commend him for the decision he made. The crew wanted to save this man.”

Craig said he spoke with Jones about the decision. “I was initially concerned, and he explained why the driver took the officer to Oakwood,” he said.

Sunday’s incident marked the seventh time since September a police officer has been shot in Detroit. Another Detroit cop, Myron Jarrot, was killed Oct. 29 by a driver who was high on cocaine.