Exclusive: What EMS crews experienced on Ferguson Day 1

EMS Chief Chris Cebollero talks about what his crews encountered in the first minutes on the scene of the Mike Brown shooting in Ferguson, Mo., which led to looting and riots the next day

FERGUSON, Mo. — The day Mike Brown was shot by a Ferguson, Mo. police officer, in an event that has led to more than a week of riots and looting, EMS crews were coming out of the same apartment complex on a different call for a patient transport.

Chris Cebollero, EMS Chief for Christian Hospital’s EMS division, said as the crew was leaving, they came across the crime scene.

“The paramedic very quickly got out of the vehicle, left the care of the patient to the other paramedic on the truck, grabbed his monitor, and went over and checked for pulse and the radial on carotid artery,” Cebollero said.

There was no pulse, blood was pooling around the body, and the victim suffered “injuries that were incompatible with life,” he said.

The medic immediately called dispatch for another ambulance, and got a blanket to cover up the victim.

The crew waited on scene, with the patient in the ambulance stable, until the second ambulance arrived.

That ambulance stayed on the scene until “their safety came into question and they were asked to leave the scene and stage a little bit away,” Cebollero said.

EMS was initially stationed an area that was set up as command post, but it soon became overrun with protesters.

“We felt very quickly that the safe zone we were in was becoming very unsafe for us, and we tried to make the determination of where we were going to go from that point,” he said.

Cebollero also looked at is an opportunity to teach young paramedics and supervisors on scene about crisis management.

“As the crowd got bigger, and it looked like our scene was unsafe I started to tell them to watch for the folks in the long shirts,” he said. “And if anybody reaches under their shirt, or if anybody reaches behind them, you know that very, very quickly, there was going to be some challenges and you should probably take some cover.”

The crowd began to build up, and the ambulance was getting blocked in, so EMS determined it needed to move the ambulance for quick egress. Things then started to settle down, and the crowd began to break up, Cebollero said.

“It wasn’t until later that evening,” he said, “Saturday evening, that we started to get some complaints of looting and protests.” 

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