Paramedic accused of stealing drugs from ambulances
The firefighter allegedly replaced various prescription drugs with saline
By Stacia Glenn
The News Tribune
WEST PIERCE, Wash. — A West Pierce firefighter is accused of stealing various prescription drugs from ambulances and replacing it with saline to support his addiction.
The 42-year-old paramedic was arrested Thursday and booked into Pierce County Jail on suspicion of unlawful possession of a controlled substance.
He is expected to appear in court Friday.
It was not immediately clear how long the paramedic is believed to have been stealing drugs. Investigators said he appeared to be keeping the drugs for personal use rather than selling them.
“There’s a lot of mixed emotions right now in our department,” Chief Jim Sharp said. “You don’t expect this from one of your co-workers. We’re in a position where we hire trustworthy people and you entrust them with a lot of things. We’re frustrated and saddened.”
Fellow paramedics first noticed in April that something was amiss with some drug vials and reported it to the medical service officer who manages and distributes drugs within the department.
He worked with the drug manufacturing company to verify that vials of morphine and fentanyl had indeed been tampered with.
West Pierce reported it in late April to Lakewood police and the Pierce County Sheriff’s Department.
The arrested paramedic worked primarily out of Station 21 at 5000 Steilacoom Blvd. SW, Lakewood. Officials estimated he has been with West Pierce for about nine years.
Detectives looked at who had access to the drugs and identified the paramedic as the suspect.
Sharp said he is working with legal advisors to figure out what comes next with regards to the paramedic’s job.
Investigators are pouring over records to figure out how many vials were stolen and how many patients may have been impacted by the thefts.
“The probability is that some patients got saline rather than the drugs they were supposed to get,” sheriff’s spokesman Ed Troyer said.
Receiving saline - a salt water solution - would not have hurt patients, but they would have unknowingly not received the drugs they needed.
The paramedic received a valor award in 2015 after saving a man whose van caught fire.
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