Staff Photo(Jerry Millevol)
Micheal Lenz, accused of forcing at gun-point Twin W Rescue Squad members to drive their ambulance to Route 130 in East Windsor, waits in Mercer County court Monday for bail to be set.
The Princeton Packet
22 October, 1985
Security Worries Aid Squads
Members put trust in police
By Kathleen Cannon
Just a few weeks ago, the Rocky Hill First Aid Squad conducted a drill to leach its members how to approach cars and persons which appear suspicious.
“We kidded about it all the time. Now we hear about this.” said squad Capt. Peggy Harris.
“This” occurred early Friday morning when Michael Lenz. 31. whose last known address was Spotswood. allegedly hijacked a West Windsor ambulance with three squad members and a paramedic in tow.
The ambulance was en route to the Medical Center at Princeton When Mr. Lenz allegedly pulled out a .380-calliber automatic pistol. The ordeal ended about eight hours later when law enforcement authorities were able to convince Mr. Lenz to surrender. police report.
The captives — three Twin W First Aid Squad members and the one Mercer County paramedic — escaped serious injury.
A situation like that which occurred before the hijacking — when Mr. Lenz allegedly feigned a heart attack and concealed his gun after being slopped by West Windsor police is not a likely one to occur, most police of officers and first aid personnel interviewed agreed. Though it may be a rarity, it is still an event those officials will try to prevent in the future by taking a fresh look at their first aid security measures. SPIV added.
“It’ll be on the top of the agenda at the next (rescue squad) meeting,” said Pennington Borough Councilman and Rescue Squad Capt. Richard Butterfoss.
He explained that a security precaution taken by some neighboring towns — that of not allowing any weapons in the first aid rig — has “never occurred to us.
But it makes sense. A patient could grab a weapon and there’s high pressure bottles in there,” Mr. Butterfoss added.
In Plainsboro Township, Lt. Gary Coderoni concurred: no weapons are allowed in the first aid vehicle. “The officer is required to ride unarmed in the ambulance. He relinquishes his weapon to another officer. If a fracas broke out in the ambulance, we don’t want the bad guy to get the gun,” he said, adding that the officer must always personally accompany the suspect to the hospital.
Also, before a criminal suspect is placed inside the ambulance, a complete search is mandated.
Additionally, if the police officer responding to the first aid call decides the suspect could threaten the aid squad member, the suspect is handcuffed or restrained, “depending on the type of injury,” he said.
There is no exception to this policy, Lt. Codcroni said.
Princeton Borough Police Chief Michael Carnevale questioned a policy of searching a person who needs emergency help. And he offered a hypothetical situation to prove his point.
“If a person is hunched over and complaining of pain in his chest, you have to assume it’s a legitimate cardiac arrest. You can’t grab and conduct a search. It’s a Catch 22 situation.
“We don’t want to lose sight of that. Had the search been conducted with the individual exhibiting those symptoms, questions about that policy would be asked,” Chief Carnevale said.
Lt. Lawrence Embrey of the Montgomery Township Police Department said the topic of increased first aid security may come up at next month’s Emergency Services Committee meeting.
“The police respond to all squad calls. They have to foresee anything likely to happen.” he said, adding the police “bring the scene under control” below the squad arrives.
While Ms. Harris of the Rocky Hill squad expressed concern that last Week’s hijacking could affect member-ship drives, Princeton First Aid and Rescue Squad President Mark Freda said he disagreed.
He said he once was called to them scene of a knifing. As he and the other squad members were placing the vicitm in the ambulance, “three people came running toward us.”
” ‘ Are they coming to get us?’; I asked myself. You start to think right away, ‘How do we defend ourselves ‘ ” he said. Actually, however, the three persons simply wanted to find out about the stabbing victim.
But. like the knifing scare, the hijacking “won’t hurt us,” Mr. Freda said.
“I don’t think many people will look at this as an everyday occurrence. In Trenton, maybe. If it happened every week, who would want to volunteer’?” he added.
He and others interviewed also said they do not think an incident like last Friday’s will occur again. “I strongly doubt it,” Mr. Freda said. “The police departments are very aware of what happened. They’ll never get caught again. All the departments, with any hint, will search.
“The police will not allow this to, happen.” he added. “which is fine as far as I’m concerned,”