WINNSBORO — While responding to a rescue call on Jan. 3 Fairfield County EMS workers encountered an unusual, hostile response—gunfire. Kevin Bryant Duncan, Jr., 25, of 1800 Killian Lakes Drive in Columbia assaulted EMS workers who were on the scene working on his mother, Zina Churn. According to the incident report, Duncan, got into the EMS truck and when he was asked to leave that he began attacking the EMS crew. A struggle ensued and one of the EMS workers fell from the truck, and suffered a shoulder injury.
According to the Sheriff Department incident report, the suspect threatened to kill one of the EMS workers as he was being removed from the truck. Captain Brad Douglas with the Fairfield County Sheriff”s Department said that the names of the workers were withheld from the media out of concern for the workers’ safety, because the suspect made threats against their lives.
Duncan was arrested and charged with simple assault. He was then detained at the Fairfield County Detention Center.
The incident occurred on the first Fairfield County EMS call of 2013.
The assault prompted a policy review from the county on EMS calls and security.
The EMS, Sheriff’s Office, 911 dispatch and the fire service administrative staff met following the incident to discuss what they thought was the core problem and to establish ways to help avoid these types of events in the future. According to Anderson, it was agreed that radio communication was the basis of the problem. Those present agreed that for a more coordinated and cohesive response to better protect its first responders, the county needed to expand its radio transmission system.
During the Duncan incident, the EMS workers used a radio on a different frequency from that of the sheriff’s office. That meant they had to call into dispatch and then be relayed to law enforcement to ask for assistance when they came under attack.
Having a radio on the same frequency would improve communication by eliminating a middle person and therefore increase response time.
For a long term solution, the County is working on a grant to upgrade and combine the county radio systems which will greatly aid in interoperability.
County Council Chairman David Ferguson voiced support of the move at the most recent county council meeting. “I think this certainly will be an upgrade to have these municipals with the appropriate equipment). We don’t hear of a lot of instances like this, but there are more than we hear about. That’s the reason in Richland County and a lot of other counties someone goes along with an ambulance that goes along to a residence… both for the safety of the person at that home and the safety of (the first responders),” Ferguson said.
The county officials noted that radio communication problems are not localized to Fairfield County but that all emergency service agencies in South Carolina deal with issues of geography, outdated equipment or the inability for radios to operate on multi frequencies.
Hyatt Kelsey, Fairfield County Human Resources Manager, said that “It makes helping those in need that much more difficult when bystanders become aggressive and interfere with patient care. In situations of emergency, I understand emotions run strong, but bystanders need to understand that once our first responders arrive on the scene, the patients are in the hands of well trained individuals whose main goal is to provide the best level of emergency care to the patient from the time of their arrival on the scene until they transfer the patient over to the hospital.”
Fairfield County first responders and law enforcement officers are highly trained and deserve the right to fulfill their duties without the unnecessary fear of being assaulted.
Mike Tanner, Director of Fairfield County EMS, said that, “EMS is there to help care for patients and we try to avoid confrontations at all times. In the future we will hold classes for our paramedics and EMTs on situational awareness and self defense.”
According to Deputy County Administrator Davis Anderson, policies also will be implemented regarding Sheriff’s Department escorts for EMS workers when they go out on a call.