AUSTIN, (KXAN) — An Austin-Travis County Emergency Medical Services ambulance was hijacked Sunday afternoon at approximately 4 p.m. with a medic crew and patient inside.
According to an ATCEMS spokesperson, the medic crew was on scene for a different call at 500 E. 7th St., the Austin Resource Center for the Homeless (ARCH) when an individual hijacked the ambulance while the medic team was tending to a patient. The medic crew was able to provide location and situational details and updates to law enforcement during the incident.
The hijacker pulled off the road, stopped the vehicle and fled on foot from that location. The medics were then able to regain control of the ambulance. The medic crew communicated with an additional ambulance to retrieve their patient and transport them to a hospital. The medics did not sustain any injuries.
The Austin Police Department said the suspect, Rashard Williams, 28, was arrested on Tuesday.
The last time this happened in Austin was earlier this month when a man stole an ambulance from the University Medical Center Brackenridge. Medics were bringing a patient to the hospital from the ambulance when EMS was notified that the ambulance was leaving. Austin police pursued the stolen ambulance eventually stopping and arresting 43-year-old David Oliver III for the unauthorized use of a motor vehicle and evading arrest/detention with a motor vehicle.
Until police learn more, it’s still unclear at this time whether there are any connections between the two incidents.
“It’s certainly a surprising event and especially to have two in a month,” Captain Rick Rutledge, with ATCEMS told KXAN on Monday, causing ATCEMS to think twice about whether procedural changes need to be made to protect equipment, patients and crews.
“There’s a lot of discussion over this call because it is so unusual and we’ll look for ways, kind of back-testing, to see if there’s anything we can do to prevent this,” Rutledge said.
ATCEMS says until this month, the last ambulance theft in recent memory in the early 1990’s, prompting policy changes and training crews still follow today. Rutledge says the crew involved in Sunday’s hijacking did everything right by first securing the patient, then themselves, and notifying the communication center which was relaying information to APD.
But still, it happened. Righto outside of the ARCH, where KXAN reported earlier this year ATCEMS visits, on average, seven times a day.
“I think it’s impossible to prevent all instances or all possibilities. But we want to make sure we can at least… not be low hanging fruits,” Rutledge said.
Right now, though there is separation between the patient care and cab area of the ambulance, there are not separate locks. Either the vehicle is fully locked or unlocked.
“You can’t jump in the back and lock the front,” he said, when KXAN asked whether it is protocol to lock the front driver and passenger doors when working on a patient in the back.
“Could that change? Possibly. We’re going to look at things like that and see if there’s a better way to do it,” Rutledge told KXAN.
ATCEMS says reviewing procedural changes could take months. KXAN plans to follow up to see if changes are deemed necessary.