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Home > Topics > Patient Handling

Medics guilt-ridden over murder of Canada cop

Responders faced the most difficult decision of their careers — help dying officer or restrain his attacker

By EMS1 Staff

OTTAWA, Canada — Four paramedics who witnessed the murder of a police officer in Ottawa have spoken publicly for the first time about the traumatic event.

Kevin Gregson was found guilty of first-degree murder Wednesday in the stabbing of Const. Eric Czapnik.

Medics Patricia St. Denis, Craig MacInnes, Amanda Walkowiak and Virginia Warner came to the officer's defense on the night he was stabbed Dec. 29, 2009 outside Ottawa Hospital's Civic campus.

They told a news conference Thursday they had to make the most difficult decision of their careers — help the dying officer or restrain Gregson.

They wrestled the attacker away from the bleeding officer and handcuffed him as doctors tried to save his life, according to CTV.

"Everything really happened extremely quickly, we had to disarm him instead of help Eric," St. Denis told the news conference.

"We just did what we did and Eric is the true hero for us," Walkowiak told reporters. "We're trained to help people and it's very difficult not being able to do that and making that choice."

The court was told MacInnes pulled Gregson off the officer, who struggled to his feet. Before staggering into the hospital, Czapnik mouthed the words: "Thank you," according to The Edmonton Journal.

"That's an extremely emotional memory, so I don't want to go into it too much," St. Denis said when asked about that moment.

"He just mouthed it. That just shows the type of man he was."

All four medics are suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, with one unable to return to work as a paramedic, CTV reported.

A Victim Impact Statement read to the court detailed the difficulties they have faced since the tragedy:

The traumatic events that unfolded on Dec 29th, 2009 were horrific, unfortunate and at times incomprehensible. The impact of these events has affected each one of us differently and will be something that we will live with forever.

We were different people before the event and it has changed each one of us in different ways.

All four of us have been impacted from that terrible night. After witnessing the murder of Eric Czapnik, a true hero, we have suffered emotionally and this has left us with varying degrees of post traumatic stress disorder.

Occurrences of nightmares and flashbacks have some of us reliving the traumatic event over and over, while others are fighting health problems, and changes in relationships.

Work functioning has tremendously been affected, so much so, that some of us have not returned to work and no one will never work as a paramedic again.
Gregson's actions left us with no choice but to disarm and restrain him, instead of being able to help Eric further, leaving some of us with a terrible feeling of guilt.

As paramedics we are trained to help people, having to watch and feel a man die in your own hands has left an unimaginable impact.

Personally and professionally we continue to recover from the events of December 29, 2009.

The comments below are member-generated and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of or its staff. If you cannot see comments, try disabling privacy and ad blocking plugins in your browser. All comments must comply with our Member Commenting Policy.
Karen Notarian Webb Karen Notarian Webb Friday, March 16, 2012 11:34:45 AM Safety first, You cannot help someone if your dead. Unfortunately this might of been the first time you faced this kind of situation but it won't be your last. Do the best you can do , your only human. If his injuries were that grave there wasn't much more you could do but get him to the operating room.
Joe Rogers Joe Rogers Friday, March 16, 2012 11:39:25 AM way to go brothers and sisters! you should be proud that you did everything you could have to save our brother! true heroes!
Wendy Martin Wendy Martin Friday, March 16, 2012 11:41:31 AM You did what you had to do, in this instance his injuries were to extreme, and he would of probably have died either way. For them to face this kind of thing everyday in their career, but to witness first hand this horrible tragedy is truly horrifying. Man should never have to deal with these kinds of things, but this is life and for those whose job is to save a life...May God bless each one of you for doing this job, and for carrying for humanity when others don't care but to take a life.
Sundstrom Aggie Marie Sundstrom Aggie Marie Friday, March 16, 2012 11:43:56 AM Hey guys and gals, you made the only choice possible. You allowed the Dr. who were also immediately from the description in the article available outside of the hospital to try and help the officer, by retraining the idiot with a knife. Don't let this stop you from doing what you want to do and are trained to do. So many more people will benefit from your knowledge and compassion than you can guess at.
Terri Waters Roller Terri Waters Roller Friday, March 16, 2012 12:11:54 PM I'm praying that all of you get the help and support you need to fully recover. You did the only thing you could possibly do in the circumstances and it seems care was not delayed, but actually given faster because of your actions. Take heart, and know that you are not at fault. It sounds like the profession is worse off for your absence.
Helen D. Noel Helen D. Noel Friday, March 16, 2012 12:23:16 PM Writing and talking is excellent therapy for trauma victims. Have you all considered getting together and writing a book about the incident? As a victim of PTSD and an author I highly encourage spiritual/professional counseling, writing and talking. My prayers are with each of you. Don't abandon your faith...which is a symptom of PTSD. God has healed me.
Jamie Holbrook Jamie Holbrook Friday, March 16, 2012 12:42:47 PM Hold your heads up you could have not helped if the dangers was present at that time you all made the right choice to take the danger away first so he was able to get help
William Liddell Firefighter Emt William Liddell Firefighter Emt Friday, March 16, 2012 1:34:58 PM to my fellow ems friends in canada you did the right thing you never no the man could have run away and gone after someone else perhaps a child you never no what could have happened if you didn't take him down for all you know you could have just saved dozen people who knows but you kept a man from doing more harm to the medic that is struggling really bad I really hope that you will return to work its a great job I'm sorry that you had to go through something like that and I hope that you can find your way back to helping people once again cause that's what its about we lose some but we also save some to.
Dwight Jones Dwight Jones Friday, March 16, 2012 4:47:43 PM We're in this together.
Teresa Sluss Teresa Sluss Friday, March 16, 2012 4:54:49 PM I think you folur did exactly what you were actually trained for, first rule is to remove the pt from danger, or remove the danger away from the pt. You all have saved untold numbers from the same fate. May God keep you four blessed, and safe. I do hope you can thrive, and learn from this, and hopefully be able to teach your fellow EMS workers.
Navarre Marshall Navarre Marshall Friday, March 16, 2012 8:53:47 PM These 4 medic are hero's not all medic are willing to jump into a fight with a knife wielding suspect to save an officer.
Scott Heinze Scott Heinze Friday, March 16, 2012 11:00:31 PM God bless you all.
Donna Graham Hammond Donna Graham Hammond Saturday, March 17, 2012 7:17:54 AM Prayers for all of you! You did what had to be done! Remember those last words.
Sara McHale Sara McHale Saturday, March 17, 2012 11:24:59 AM My thoughts and prayers go out to all of the paramedics involved.
Jeremy Snyder Jeremy Snyder Sunday, March 18, 2012 6:31:43 AM Courage in the face of Chaos.. Few scenarios can illustrate this better, you acted when so many others would have watched, especially with the male responsible still being armed. I salute you for your bravery!
Susie Crosby Susie Crosby Wednesday, March 21, 2012 8:34:55 AM You did what you had to do. I told myself when I got into EMS that I would do what I could but I don't make that final decision who lives and who dies. Everything can go wrong and a patient still lives. Everything can go right and a patient dies. That's God's decision, not ours. May He give you peace and healing.

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