March 3, 2014

From Party-Planning To Life-Saving for 2 EMTs

Stabilized Wounded Cop

White Knights at White Castle

The Chief-Leader/Chris Bishop
WHITE KNIGHTS AT WHITE CASTLE: Emergency Medical Technicians Khadijah Hall (left) and Shaun Alexander received accolades last week after stabilizing a police officer who was wounded in a shootout in Brooklyn. They’d been off-duty, sitting in a car in a White Castle parking lot, when they witnessed the fight and took action.



PATRICK J. LYNCH: ‘Forever grateful to them.’


For two Emergency Medical Technicians now hailed as heroes, their brush with greatness came at an unusual time: off-duty, while sitting in a White Castle parking lot.

Shaun Alexander and Khadijah Hall, veteran EMTs with 26 and 22 years’ experience, respectively, had become friends on the job, and Ms. Alexander came over on Feb. 26 to help plan a retirement party for some colleagues.

‘I Heard Two Shots’

Since parking was scarce near Ms. Hall’s Crown Heights home, and they couldn’t double-park because it was along a bus route, they hopped in Ms. Hall’s car, and she pulled into the restaurant lot. They began calling catering companies. It was about 5 p.m.

“A minute later I heard initially two shots,” Ms. Hall recalled. At first, she shrugged it off.

“I mean, not that I didn’t take it seriously, but for all I knew it could’ve been firecrackers,” she said in a phone interview Feb. 28, adding that even if it was a gun, it was the kind of thing you occasionally heard in the city. “It’s Brooklyn, and that’s so sad [but] that’s a way of life.”

Then out of the corner of her eye, she saw a man running away from them. He darted around a parked car, fast, “like in one of those Matrix movies,” and twisted back over his shoulder to squeeze off a few more shots.

“Two to three seconds later I seen the cop coming, runnin’, firin’ at him,” she said. Then his partner followed. “I was like, ‘Are we on a movie set?’”

One Was Wounded

The first police officer had crouched down in the parking lot about 10 steps away, and Ms. Hall thought at first that he’d gotten low to get a better shot. But when his partner reached him, he appeared to be making a decision, to chase the suspect or attend to his colleague. Ms. Hall realized the first policeman—rookie Officer James Li—had been wounded.

As the action unfolded, Ms. Alexander sitting in the passenger seat was unable to see, her vision blocked by a nearby van. But when she heard the first shots, she leaned back in her seat to protect herself. Ms. Hall leaned forward to get a better view.

“She was giving me updates, like, ‘Oh, he shot the cop but he’s running,’” she said.

“Shaun went down in her seat, but for some reason, I was too captivated after seeing the guy,” Ms. Hall said, admitting with a laugh that in her surprise, she unleashed a string of expletives.

The shooter was later identified by police as Rashaun Robinson, a man the two officers had caught sneaking into the backdoor of a B46 bus without paying. The two cops, Mr. Li and partner Randy Chow, were both rookies: Mr. Li just graduated from the Police Academy in December.

When the “perp,” as Ms. Hall called him, ran off, the two women immediately flew into action: Ms. Alexander running to the scene and Ms. Hall stopping to get her “tech bag” out of the trunk, which contains basic-life-saving gear including bandages, a first aid kit and gloves.

‘Never Anticipated This’

Though not required to keep their bags with them on their off time, many EMTs do so. Ms. Hall just a month before had refreshed hers with new equipment, not having used it in ages.

“Wow. I never in my wildest dreams would have ever anticipated something like this—that bag being my best friend,” she said.

When asked if they’d feared being caught in any further crossfire—Mr. Robinson, they later learned, was pulled off the bus along with another fare-beater—Ms. Hall said it didn’t even occur to either of them.

“There was a chance of zero of him coming back, because coming back would mean you want to get caught or you want to die,” she said. “Because they really would have lit him up.”

Such observations came more easily after having worked with the police for more than two decades.

‘Watch Each Other’s Backs’

“Being an EMT, you tend to pick up a little of their work [ethics] and their lingo also. You try to watch each others’ back as much as possible. At the end of the day, nobody wants to get hurt and everybody wants to go back to their family,” she said.

Mr. Li had been hit once in each thigh, but luckily, the shooter missed the femoral artery, which can easily lead a patient to bleed out. The EMTs cut away his pants near his wounds and helped stabilize him. Within a couple of minutes, an ambulance, called by Mr. Chow, arrived.

On Feb. 28, the two women were honored by Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association President Patrick J. Lynch for their quick action.

“We will forever be grateful to EMTs Shaun Alexander and Khadijah Hall for the unselfish and caring aid that they lent to Police Officer James Li,” he said after presenting them with a statuette. “They are the embodiment of all that is good about New York City and I would be proud to work a sector with them at any time. On behalf of 50,000 active and retired NYC police officers, I say a heartfelt thank you.”

Their Own Union Applauds

Israel Miranda, the president of their EMT and Paramedics’ union, praised them in a phone interview, too.

“Off-duty or on-duty EMS has always met its commitment to the citizens of New York,” he said. “They are truly the best at what they do. They are New York City’s true heroes. They answer that call about 4,000 times a day.”

The EMTs were surprised by the accolades. “Never in my wildest, wildest dreams had I anticipated” any special recognition, Ms. Hall said.

“Listen, it was unbelievable,” said Ms. Alexander. “They gave us a standing ovation...I didn’t even realize that this would be such a big thing, to tell you the truth. We were just doing what we do every day.”