'You know how hard it is to die?': Man charged with shooting NY EMT pleads guilty

Thomas McCauley will be sentenced to 11 years in prison after wounding EMS provider Richard McMahon in an ambulance, prosecutors say

By Kyle Lawson
Staten Island Advance, N.Y.

STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. — A Staten Island man who shot an EMT earlier this year inside an ambulance had plenty to say to detectives following his arrest, according to court documents.

"I did it ... the damage is done," stated Thomas McCauley, 37, of Elm Park, who also at one point recounted his thought process at the time and how he purchased the firearm.

EMT Richard McMahon, who was shot by a patient in May, waves to supporters as he is released from Richmond University Medical Center.
EMT Richard McMahon, who was shot by a patient in May, waves to supporters as he is released from Richmond University Medical Center. (Photo/Gardiner Anderson/Tribune News Service)

McCauley pleaded guilty last month in Supreme Court, St. George, to second-degree attempted murder in connection with the May 18 incident. In exchange, he'll be sentenced to 11 years in prison, in addition to five years post-release supervision and an eight-year order of protection on behalf of the victim.

According to court papers, McCauley also stated to officers on the night of the shooting, in part: "I just wanted to die... It happened in 2015 ... you know hard it is to die?"

It was unclear what exactly he was referring to.

When speaking with detectives later, the defendant acknowledged drinking and passing out that evening, then being transported by ambulance to a hospital. He said he reached in his bag for a gun, which he had purchased two years prior "from the streets."

"I didn't want to go back there," McCauley said. Court documents didn't specify what he meant by "there."

"My first reaction, I shot the medic ... I stupidly shot the guy and figured I could escape."

McCauley told police he was regretful for his actions.

"It was stupid," he said. "I was raised that if you do the crime you do the time ... I have to do the time now."


A man who described himself as a longtime friend and at one point housemate of McCauley spoke with the Advance/SILive.com following the arrest about what he described as the defendant's long history of mental health issues.

He noted what he described at multiple suicide attempts in the past, at least one involving authorities, and brief inpatient stays at medical facilities.

"He was supposed to get a therapist, but trying to get a therapist was so hard he just gave up, because it takes like two months for someone to even call you back."

He said he'd go on and off prescribed medications while also self-medicating — on the night in question with alcohol — finding work but living on a limited income.

"He wants to get clean and he also wants to mentally get right; he wants to get on his medication and talk to a therapist," the friend said. "I'm sorry about what happened to that person and it's terrible, and [McCauley] has to mentally go through that as well, but Tommy is not that kind of a guy. I've known Tommy since I was 7 years old and I've never in my life ever seen Tommy hurt anybody."

In the days following the shooting, McCauley's friend said they spoke over the phone from Rikers.

"When I spoke to Thomas, his first thing was: This is gonna help me become a better person."

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'I look up and see a gun pointed at my face': EMT shot in ambulance recounts experience

EMT Richard McMahon praised his partner's response and said he expects to undergo "a lot of physical therapy but also emotional therapy"


Prior to the shooting, EMTs responded to a call of a disorderly person outside the Funky Monkey Lounge, located at 1205 Forest Ave.

They spotted McCauley in front of the bar and placed him in the back of the ambulance. While the vehicle was traveling down Forest Avenue, the defendant pointed a gun toward 25-year-old EMT Richard McMahon's face and shot him in the shoulder, prosecutors allege.

The female driver of the ambulance pulled over on the 600 block of Forest Avenue, at which point McCauley fled out the back door of the vehicle, police said at the time. McMahon later told the Advance/SILive.com he had wrestled the gun away from McCauley after being shot.

"I was taking down the guy's information on my tablet and happened to look up and see a gun pointed at my face. Sooner than I could react, I heard a loud bang and immediately felt pressure on my left shoulder, got up,[and] screamed, 'I'm shot! I'm shot!' to my partner," he recounted.

"There's going to be a lot of physical therapy but also emotional therapy as well obviously, because once the wounds heal, the emotional toll will always be there," he said. "That will probably be the hardest part."

Seconds after the gunshot rang out on Forest Avenue, two bystanders, a retired NYPD detective and an off-duty Sanitation Department lieutenant, rushed toward the violence and subdued the suspect until police arrived.


McMahon was released the following day from the hospital.

District Attorney Michael E. McMahon issued the following statement Monday in regard to McCauley's plea.

"On an otherwise typical day serving the people of Staten Island, EMT Rich McMahon nearly lost his life at the hands of an armed man in the back of his ambulance. While Rich was seriously wounded, his potentially life-saving actions rid the defendant of his weapon and diffused the situation until authorities arrived,"

"Our Trials Bureau, particularly [Assistant District Attorneys] Nick Agostino and Jeanine Ruggiero, did an exemplary job in ensuring this defendant was held fully accountable under the law for his horrific act, and he will now spend over a decade in prison after pleading guilty to attempted murder.

"We often speak of the daily risks our first responders take in order to keep Staten Island the safest community of its size in the nation, and this near-tragedy embodies this truth. We wish EMT McMahon a full and continued recovery, and thank him for his service on behalf of the people of our Island."

McCauley is scheduled to be sentenced Thursday in Justice Alexander Jeong's courtroom.


(c)2022 Staten Island Advance, N.Y.

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McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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