Listen To The Radio Calls That Led To A CHP Officer Handcuffing A Firefighter
Radio transmissions reveal more about what happened in the moments leading up to a CHP officer handcuffing a firefighter at the scene of a car crash.
Chula Vista firefighter Jacob Gregoire, 36, was handcuffed and detained at the scene of a crash on the southbound 805 freeway around 9:20 p.m. on Tuesday night. Firefighters were first at the scene involving a white Honda Civic and a Mustang that hit a construction barrier on the freeway and flipped. CHP arrived to the scene after firefighters.
Here is an edited copy of the radio transmissions from both the firefighters and CHP:
At one point, a CHP officer (and it's not clear if it's the one who cuffed Gregoire) reports that everything is cleared out of the traffic lanes except for firefighters: "Everything is in the median, and fire is blocking for no reason here in the one and two lanes. I'm going to try to get them to move right now."
A CHP officer ordered the firetrucks that responded to the scene to clear out. Other engines at the scene complied, but Chula Vista Fire Chief Dave Hanneman told San Diego 6 that Gregoire refused to move his engine because it was protecting an ambulance. (The union representing firefighters said in a statement that one other firetruck was moved from the scene too early: "Witnesses state that just prior to the arrest, a different officer ordered a different Fire Engine carrying an on duty paramedic to leave the scene before the medical aid was finished. That Engine departed with the paramedic.")
It's clear from later radio calls between firefighters and their supervisors that the conflict between the two agencies was escalating. One firefighter asks for a supervisor's cell phone to talk about "an issue with CHP." The supervisor gives him the okay to make a call. Later the firefighter says:
"Okay, I don't have time for a cell phone, this is ridiculous. CHP is arresting Engineer Gregoire for where he spotted the fire engine. We're in the middle of patient care with patients on the freeway, and we're trying to protect our scene and they're putting him in handcuffs at this time and walking him away."
That's when a supervisor with the fire department responds, "Contact the CHP supervisor and call them on my phone please." The supervisor lets the firefighters at the scene know that he's en route to the scene.
Gregoire did not end up getting arrested. He was released after 30 minutes after the supervisors from CHP and the fire department hashed it out. NBC San Diego says the firefighter could still face charges in the incident.
Phil Constantine of CBS News 8, who worked with the CHP for 20 years, says there are no hard-and-fast legal rules just guidelines about working together at the scene: "That is legal—you can tell someone to move the vehicle. Whether it's justified, I can't comment on."
The two agencies are trying to make it sound like they've made up. The CHP and Chula Vista Fire Department released a statement calling what happened Tuesday an "unfortunate incident" and that they are planning to conduct training to improve communication in the future. They added, "This was an isolated incident and not representative of the manner in which our agencies normally work together toward our common goal."
The union representing firefighters wasn't quite so generous in its description of the incident. President of the Chula Vista Firefighters Union John Hess said in a statement, "When we arrive at an accident scene, we have consistently demonstrated a common interest in the safety and welfare of the accident victims and the emergency personnel on scene. Our Engineer parked his vehicle consistent with our standards and training. We cannot imagine what possible explanation could be given to justify this conduct by the CHP officer."