NYPD launches probe after EMTs robbed at gunpoint twice in a week

By Susan Edelman, Joe Marino, Larry Celona and Dean Balsamini

December 12, 2020

The NYPD is probing a possible connection between two EMT robberies in the same week.

Two young FDNY emergency medical technicians were held up at  gunpoint inside NYCHA’s Cooper Park Houses early Saturday in East Williamsburg after responding to a bogus call at 2:18 am about a patient having seizures, police said.

When the two got out of an elevator on the 7th floor, a man dressed in black and with a black mask pulled out a gun, commanding them to “give me your radios and bags,” which held medical equipment, said NYPD spokeswoman Sophia Mason.

 The gunman then pushed all the buttons on the elevator and sent the two shaken EMTs, ages 25 and 23, back down. The medics, who each have just a year on the job, are stationed in Greenpoint.

“They were shocked that this happened,” said Oren Barzilay, president of FDNY EMS Local 2507, the EMS union. “They came to help a victim, and became victims.”  

In a Dec. 7 incident, a gunman robbed two EMTs, a 28-year-old woman and a 46-year-old man, working for Kingsbrook Jewish Medical Center.

They were lured to a Brownsville apartment on a 911 call of someone “having difficulty breathing,“ police said.

When they arrived, there was no patient to treat. The robber pointed a gun, took their equipment bags, and fled.

“EMT workers are among the most beloved city workers and these two robberies are deplorable,” said NYPD Chief of Detectives Rodney Harrison. “The citizens of New York City depend on them especially during these trying times. NYPD detectives and fire marshals are working to apprehend the people involved in these crimes.”

EMS can be a tough and dangerous job. Workers go alone into crime-ridden areas — unarmed, and often not accompanied by cops. Besides carrying radios worth several thousands of dollars, EMTs carry only baby aspirin as a blood thinner for chest pains, Ventolin for asthma attacks, and Epinephrine for allergic reactions, and Narcan to reverse an opioid overdose.

The union president blamed the political climate: “This is the result of Mayor de Blasio defunding the police, and the state’s bail reform allowing criminals on a daily basis to commit crimes and face no consequences,” he said.

He added, “Rather than having police respond to calls with EMS as they normally did, they go on fewer medical calls. Now, they want to send a social worker instead of a police officer on calls. How is that going to help our situation?”

The Police Benevolent Association tweeted outrage and support for their EMT brothers and sisters.

“AGAIN?! Another EMS unit was robbed at gunpoint. Our POs have been shot, our Federal partners have been shot, NYers have been shot, and our EMS units are getting robbed. @NYCMayor and @NYCCouncil needs to change their public safety priorities now.”

No arrests have been made in either case. Police could not say immediately whether the incidents are linked.

“It’s too early in the investigation to determine if they are connected. But we are looking into the possibility,” an NYPD spokesman told the Post.

 Fire Commissioner Daniel Nigro fumed, “It’s despicable that anyone would use 911 for a fake medical call, threaten the lives of EMTs, and steal the tools they use to save lives,” he said in a statement.

“EMTs and paramedics have one mission – respond to help New Yorkers in need of emergency medical care. They are essential to our city. When apprehended, those responsible for these crimes should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.”

An FDNY insider said the robberies are a sign of “desperate times” amid the pandemic.

But EMS pay is so low, a veteran said, “The perpetrator was lucky they didn’t rob him.”