MIAMI (CBSMiami) – A Miami firefighter pressed the emergency button on his radio calling for help. It’s a call very few firefighters have ever had to make. The firefighter had just been robbed at gunpoint while on the job.
“Been assaulted..shot at. 47th Street, 14th Avenue. Help!” he said in the call. “I need PD….I need PD!”
Miami Fire Rescue spokesman Lt. Ignatius Carroll said around noon on Sunday the firefighter, who was in uniform, was flushing out a hydrant line at 15th Avenue and NW 46th Street.
As he walked back to his fire station about a block away, he was approached from behind by a man in a ski mask and carrying a semi-automatic weapon. The gunman then demanded a chain hanging around the firefighter’s neck.
The firefighter took off the chain and threw it at him.
“The subject started to reach for it, at that time the firefighters saw an opportunity to try and get away, that’s all he wanted,” said Carroll. “This person yelled at him and followed by the yell he started shooting at him.”
The armed man fired three shots at the firefighter but missed.
Frazier Smith heard the three gun shots.
“It’s crazy. I’ve never seen anything like it,” said Smith. “A firefighter? These people are out there to help people, they’re out there trying to save lives.”
Police set up a perimeter and SWAT teams searched the surrounding area. One person who matched the robber’s description was taken into custody. He was released a short time later.
“To have somebody in the community to go after us, to rob one of us and try to kill him, they’re letting people know they are not going to tolerate that,” said Carroll.
The name of the firefighter has not been released at this time. Police said he is a husband and father of three children.
CBS4′s Natalia Zea learned this same firefighter also narrowly avoided being shot, while on duty in 2006 after a random shooting broke out in front of the station.
In that previous incident a bullet came flying through the station door and it just missed that firefighter by inches, lodging itself in the door of a fire truck.
Despite that first close encounter, the firefighter chose to remain at Station 12, serving the Model City neighborhood for the last 12 years.
“He said this is his home, this is the community he serves and he’s staying here,” Lt. Carroll said.
Luis Marshall works with that firefighter, and he told Zea he was checking his own hydrants nearby when he heard the call for help on the radio.
“You must have freaked out,” said Zea. “Yes, yes we started doing a headcount trying to figure out who we were looking for,” said Marshall.
Marshall can’t believe someone would target a firefighter on duty.
“Being in uniform you would feel we do have a sense of protection.”
The Miami Fire Union is now examining whether the Department should do more to protect firefighters, including keeping them at least in pairs.
“We’re going into situations without guns of our own, without tasers….We think that this firefighter being alone provided a greater vulnerability,” said Union President Robert Suarez.
Though no one wants a knee-jerk reaction, Marshall says he is watching his back.
“It makes you think now, now you have to be cautious when people do approach you….But we’ll still show up on time, ready to serve the citizens.”