Fla. medic lunges for loaded gun after patient pulls firearm during assessment

An unconscious man at a stoplight suddenly awoke when first responders were checking on him inside his car for a medical emergency, and reached for the weapon

Mark Young
The Bradenton Herald

MANATEE, Fla. — About four seconds was the difference between life and death on May 31 when an unconscious man awoke to Manatee County medical first responders trying to help him and pulled out a loaded gun.

"I had no choice but to go for the gun," said Manatee County Paramedic Carlos Santos.

"I had no choice but to go for the gun," said Manatee County Paramedic Carlos Santos. (Photo/Manatee County EMS)

Santos' quick reaction, along with his partner, EMT Joe Savasta, and nearby sheriff's deputies, prevented what could have been a tragic day.

Santos and Savasta responded to a call about an unconscious man inside his vehicle at the traffic light at 2600 53rd Ave. W.

After several failed attempts to get the man's attention with verbal commands, the two EMS employees got inside the vehicle by breaking the back window and immediately began to check if the man was having a medical emergency.

Sheriff's deputies Conner Gulash, Tucker Aguirre, and Dwight Roberts arrived seconds later to assess the situation, which had been reported as a possible DUI.

Roberts entered the vehicle through the passenger side as Savasta reached into the vehicle to take the keys out of the ignition. As Savasta's shoulder brushed against the driver, he awoke. As Santos began to run an EKG on the driver to make sure it was not a medical emergency, the driver reached into the console and pulled out a loaded handgun.

"I yelled gun, gun, gun," Santos said.

In an instant, Santos dropped to a knee and reached for the gun as Deputy Roberts dived into the vehicle from the passenger side. Santos was successfully able to pull the gun from the man's hands.

Santos, a gun owner himself with additional training in security, knew what to do.

"I know what guns can do," Santos said. "I was able to grab the barrel and put my hand over the trigger guard. He was trying to get his fingers pass my hand but I was able to stop him from doing it and got the gun out of his hand."

Santos, Savasta and Roberts reacted instantly and Santos was able to hand the gun off to Savasta who cleared the weapon as deputies detained Timothy John Neidert.

"This was a situation that really could have gone south," said Public Safety Director Jacob Saur. "In split seconds, things can change quickly. That was a very dangerous situation mitigated by them and we can't thank them enough."

Santos and Savasta were awarded with meritorious service certificates on Tuesday for their actions.

"Joe and Carlos are two of many first responders we employ in Manatee County who every single day go above and beyond for our citizens and put their lives in danger," said Commissioner Kevin Van Ostenbridge, who wanted to personally to thank them for their heroic actions.

"This is a reminder to not let our guard down and some crazy things can happen when we are least expecting," said EMS Chief James Crutchfield

Both Santos and Savasta were seeing the dramatic video of their actions, shot by a deputy's body camera, for the first time on Tuesday.

It's a bit to process seeing it from afar rather than in the moment where everything is tunnel vision, Savasta said.

Neidert, 51, has been charged with attempted murder, resisting arrest with violence, DUI and refusal to submit.

Though Santos got to the weapon first, the heroic actions of the deputies on scene, in particular Roberts who also lunged for the weapon, were hailed by the sheriff's office,

"It just goes to show what can happen in a matter of seconds," said sheriff's spokesman Randy Warren "It's a good example of how you just never know what you will encounter out there on a daily basis. You just never know and we are thankful for EMS and our deputies who were right there and that this was not a prolonged incident and nobody was hurt."


(c)2021 The Bradenton Herald (Bradenton, Fla.)

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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