HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) — An armed man was able to force an HFD ambulance off the road early Friday before hijacking it and fleeing police with two people inside, police said.
It began in southwest Houston along South Loop 610 and Braeswood around 3 a.m.
Medics were on their way to a hospital with a patient onboard when the man, who was in another vehicle, forced the HFD ambulance to stop, according to Houston police. That’s when he forced the driver out at gunpoint, got in, and drove away.
LISTEN: Gunman radios dispatchers while fleeing with EMT and patient inside HFD ambulance
The man opened fire on passing vehicles along the freeway, police said, but no one was hit.
As the ambulance made its way onto Highway 288 and Southwest Freeway, the EMT, who was attending to the patient in the back, realized something was wrong and checked on the driver, who she then found out was the hijacker, police said. The driver threatened that EMT with the gun, but authorities said she worked to keep everyone calm during the ordeal.
“She de-escalated the incident by essentially not panicking,” Houston Fire Chief Sam Peña said. “She remained calm throughout the incident.”
The EMT alerted dispatchers who were able to track the ambulance as HPD responded. Officers pursued the ambulance across southeast Houston before the driver headed west and made his way into the southwestern part of the city.
STOLEN AMBULANCE: The man slumped over in this video is accused of stealing an ambulance with a patient & EMT in the back as they were trying to get to the hospital.
This man allegedly pulled a gun and fired shots at passing cars. So scary for all in the ambulance and drivers!! pic.twitter.com/MOdNXzQXXy
— Charly Edsitty (@CharlyABC13) July 23, 2021
Houston police were able to force the gunman to stop the ambulance on Southwest Freeway at Weslayan before he gave up. Officers took the man into custody on the freeway.
No one was harmed during the ordeal, and the patient onboard was able to be moved to another ambulance before finally being taken to the hospital.
The gunman, who was not immediately identified, was under the influence of some kind of substance and has a lengthy criminal history, police said.
WATCH: Breaking news coverage of hijacked ambulance on Eyewitness News This Morning
In the wake of the chaotic ordeal, Eyewitness News has learned the patient in the ambulance, identified only as a female, was considered a non-priority transport, according to Peña, though details about the original service call was not immediately available.
The chief added the ambulance works out of HFD Station No. 2, located on Woodway near Bering Drive. The engineer operator of the unit at the time of the theft is an 18-year veteran of the department. The EMT who was inside the unit as it was hijacked has had at least 10 years of service with HFD.
Later, Friday afternoon, Peña expressed being grateful that the innocent people involved in the incident were not hurt. He said in a statement:
“Above all else, I am thankful that our firefighters and the patient involved in this incident are safe and unharmed.
The brazen nature of this attack on our firefighters is deeply concerning, and an overarching message should be clear that attacks on our first responders will not be tolerated.
We have afforded every Critical Incident Stress Management resource to our firefighters and will wait for feedback from our staff psychologist before we allow official access to these employees.
We thank the Houston Police Department for their quick assistance and thank all men and women of the HFD and HPD for the incredible work they do each day.”
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