Tucson Firefighter Refused To Respond To Giffords Shooting; Memo Questions "Political Bantering" And Delay

TUCSON, Ariz. - A veteran firefighter refused to respond to last month's deadly shooting spree that left Rep. Gabrielle Giffords wounded because he had different political views than his colleagues and "did not want to be part of it," according to internal city memos.



In this Jan. 8, 2011 file photo, emergency personnel work at the scene where Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, D-Ariz., and others were shot outside a Safeway grocery store in Tucson, Ariz. Veteran firefighter Mark Ekstrum refused to respond to the deadly shooting spree because of "political bantering," and it may have delayed his unit's assignment to help, according to internal city memos. (AP Photo/Matt York, File)

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Mark Ekstrum's insubordination may have delayed his unit's response because firefighters had to stop at another station to pick up a replacement for him, the Arizona Daily Star reported.

While the crew was not among the first called to the supermarket where six people were killed and 13 others wounded, a memo from Ekstrum's supervisor said his actions caused "confusion and delay" during the emergency.

Ekstrum's team, which is specially trained to handle large medical emergencies, was dispatched to assist 90 minutes after the Jan. 8 shooting.

The 28-year veteran of the Tucson Fire Department retired two days later while his supervisors were still considering how to discipline him, according to the Star, which obtained the memos about the incident through a public records request.

Capt. Ben Williams wrote in a report that when Ekstrum first said he would not go on the call, "he mentioned something about `political bantering' and he did not want to be part of it."

Williams said in the report that he told the 56-year-old firefighter that he could not refuse a call for that reason and then talked to the firefighter privately in his office. He said Ekstrum "started to say something about how he had a much different political viewpoint than the rest of the crew and he was concerned."

Despite being told that was not acceptable, Williams said Ekstrum informed him he was going home "sick," so they answered the call without him.

Ekstrum's crew had been dispatched at 12:03 p.m., seven minutes after the last patient arrived at the hospital, said Joe Gulotta, an assistant fire chief. The team was responding as a support crew with a large delivery truck with tents, medical supplies, water and cots used to assist those who were not seriously injured.

Ekstrum declined to comment on the Star's story and refused to elaborate on any details of the memos when reached at his home Thursday by The Associated Press.

"I have nothing else to say about it," Ekstrum said.

But the Star said Ekstrum gave a statement Wednesday to the Fire Department saying he was distraught over the shootings and was "distracted to the point of not being able to perform my routine station duties to such an extent that I seriously doubted my ability to focus on an emergency call."

Ekstrum also said in the statement that he had no problem with Giffords and even voted for her in the last election.

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Information from: Arizona Daily Star, http://www.azstarnet.com

Copyright 2010 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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Friendship or lack thereof and politics aside... when the tones drop, we go and do our jobs... period.
That is called "professionalism".
what better way to rise above political bantering than to proudly and professionally do your job. Race, color, creed, political affiliation or economic status should not dictate who we respond to, as Ron said "when the tones drop, we go and do our jobs".
No excuse....well said.
Agreed again. Sad that this guy threw 28 years away in one moment based on a perceived political disagreement. The emergency services workplace should rise above political and religious issues when it comes to doing our job.
He didn't throw away anything. He retired.
I disagree with you Ben. He threw away any RESPECT he had for himself, his firefighting brothers, the public he swore to protect, and this profession.
No he didn't. He was too emotionally distraught to function effectively on the call, and despite how it might have been percieved by others, he did the most courageous thing he could possibly have done - he retired.

Further, can you explain how going to the scene and setting up tents after all of the patients have been transported is "protecting the public"?

He did the right thing under the circumstances. "...threw away any RESPECT he had for himself..."??? Not a chance.
Glad he retired, for his sake. He would have been FIRED that day if it was up to me
I fervently hope they can strip him of any post employment benefits of any kind. What a piece of trash! This shirker does not represent one millionth of a drop in the bucket to the fire fighters and first responders who give their all every time the tone goes off.

Kudos to the ones who went not knowing whether they would be in the line of fire when they arrived.
Hogwash. He was simply too distraught to operate safely on that call. He went home sick.

If you had your way, any time a firefighter takes sick leave for a "mental health day" then that firefighter is a "shirker" and a "piece of trash".

He earned the right to retire before going to work that day. The fact that he had an emotional response to a high-stress event while at work in no way should disqualify him from retirement benefits that he'd already earned.

As for the firefighters and EMS personnel that responded, they KNEW that they wouldn't be in the line of fire. They staged a safe distance away until PD secured the scene.
So, are you saying that you don't believe in due process?
NO, I am saying that he told his C/O that he did not want to respond due to political reasons, which may be ok in the private sector, but does not cut it in this line of work. He did not have a religious objection or a mental reason for not going on the call.

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