Acting Pittsburgh EMS chief aids stabbing victim outside her home
Chief Amera Gilchrist was off duty and in bed with a migraine when she was alerted to a trauma patient on the sidewalk in front of her house
By Megan Guza
PITTSBURGH — Circumstances piled up against a man stabbed Saturday afternoon on Pittsburgh's North Side.
He was stabbed in the neck and losing blood rapidly. Calls to 911 were put in a queue that was 30 calls deep at one point. Police, firefighters and EMS were flooded with calls about storm damage and flooding.
Pittsburgh's Acting EMS Chief Amera Gilchrist's husband and daughter happened to step outside on their way to church at the right time. They heard a woman screaming.
Chief Gilchrist was in bed nursing a migraine — in her pajamas, she noted — when her daughter and husband called from the street outside. Her daughter said someone had been stabbed. It was April Fool's Day.
"I said, 'Quit playing,' and she said, 'Mom, I'm not playing,'" Chief Gilchrist said.
It was also the day 60 mph wind gusts tore through the region, accompanied sporadically by rain. Thousands had no electricity and trees and wires were down across Allegheny County. The 911 communications center was operating in storm mode, meaning callers experienced delays in getting through to dispatchers.
Chief Gilchrist said her street is under construction, and from the sound of her daughter's voice, she knew she didn't have the luxury of running to her car where she kept her medical equipment. She ran out of her house with a box of gloves, kitchen towels and her radio, knowing she'd have to be the one to contact 911.
The scene a short distance away was a grisly one.
"I could see blood just pumping out of his neck," she said of the victim, whose name was not released.
Chief Gilchrist used her kitchen towels to apply pressure to the man's neck and slow the bleeding, all the while trying to calm the man's wife, who was at the scene. Police arrived a few minutes later and a witness pointed them to the suspect, Jonathan Johnson, who was nearby.
After Johnson was taken into custody, police intervened with combat gauze, which is specially formulated to stop bleeding and encourage clotting. Chief Gilchrist kept pressure on the wound until an ambulance arrived.
The victim was taken to the hospital in critical condition, but he was alive long enough to make it there — something that, given a few more minutes, might not have been the case.
"I don't think he would have made it much longer," she said.
Johnson was taken to the Allegheny County Jail where he remained Monday. A judge denied bail, calling him a threat to the community.
The woman at the scene told police that Johnson is her ex-husband and the victim is her current husband, according to the criminal complaint. She said Johnson asked to meet up with the woman's husband to "clear the air," and everyone eventually agreed to a time and place.
The woman said she and the victim arrived at Johnson's home. She stayed in the passenger seat while her husband walked to the sidewalk, according to the complaint. She said an argument began, and she saw Johnson with his right hand in his pocket. She told police she knew he didn't have a gun but thought he could be holding something else.
According to the complaint, the woman saw Johnson punch her husband, at which point she got out of the car. She said Johnson had some type of blade in his hand, and she didn't realize he'd stabbed her husband until she saw the blood.
Johnson went inside and came back with towels, the woman told police. He gave them to her and said, "take care of your man," according to the complaint.
Court records did not list an attorney for Johnson Monday. A preliminary hearing is scheduled for next week.
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