Shooting death of firefighter performing welfare check likely to prompt policy changes, says chief
The death of John Ulmschneider, a Prince George's County firefighter who was shot and killed last week while he and a partner were on a welfare check assignment will likely lead to changes in the way those types of calls are addressed in the future.
"We give a lot of leeway to our officers to make decisions in crisis situations. That's exactly what they did here," said Prince George's County Fire Chief Marc Bashoor when he spoke with FOX 5 on Tuesday about the incident. He said that when information reaches the department regarding a sick or injured person inside of a home - standard procedure allows the firefighter to force their way inside.
He said at this time, there is no procedure dictating how and when a firefighter can make the call to enter a building when they believe an emergency exists. He says, following Ulmschneider's death, it is now likely that a policy will be put into place.
Bashoor also added that protective vests for firefighters have been ordered, but have not yet been issued to their tactical crews.
"We train for just about any situation every day. We never think that fire and ems folks are going to become the target of bullets," Bashoor said. "That's certainly not something that any fire chief, any firefighter or any paramedic ever wants to find themselves in."
Bashoor added that the shooter, while not facing any charges at this time, has been issued a subpoena to appear before a grand jury. The shooter has told investigators that he was startled by the firefighters and shot in self-defense.
Visitation for Ulmschneider, a 13-year veteran of the Prince George's County Fire and EMS Department, will be held Tuesday night at St. John's Parish in Hollywood, MD.
The funeral Mass will be held on Wednesday, April 20, 2016 also at St. John's Parish.
Fire crews from as far away as Baltimore City will work to cover emergencies in Prince George's County Tuesday and Wednesday while the visitation and funeral are underway.
19-year-old Kevin Swain, a firefighter for the Morningside Volunteer Fire Department who was injured in the shooting, is still hospitalized at this time.