A 61-year-old man, whose identity police have not yet released, shot two firefighters who were trying to gain entrance into his home on Friday night. Firefighters/medics John Ernest Ulmschneider, 37, and Kevin Swain, 19, were responding to an emergency call from the man’s brother, who said that he had been unable to get in touch with him. He feared for his brother’s safety because he is diabetic, and he felt that he might have had a blackout or seizure and been unable to reach help.
After knocking loudly on the door and announcing themselves three times without any type of response Ulmschneider and Swain decided to break through the door fearing that the man might be having some type of health crisis. As soon as they entered the premises, though, the man began shooting, killing Ulmschneider, severely wounding Swain, and even injuring the man’s own brother who was shot in the shoulder. The brother was on the scene with firefighters with the intent of making certain that the man was alright.
According to The Washington Post, the man has not been charged, and in fact he was released from police custody on Saturday night. Authorities say that the man believed that someone was trying to break into his home, he was being cooperative with police, and that his version of the facts remained consistent throughout his questioning.
The shooter’s sister expressed sympathy over the firefighter’s death on behalf of herself and her family.
“It was a tragic horror story. My brother was very sick. He is a gentle person.
“We are so sorry about the firefighter and for the family. We were praying so hard.”
Mark Brady, a fire department spokesperson, confirmed that the firefighters/medics decided not to wait for police to arrive before entering because they felt that the man might be having a medical emergency, and they felt they needed to get inside as soon as possible.
Swain, who is a volunteer firefighter, was shot four times and had to undergo surgery. He is recovering at the University of Maryland Medical Center’s Shock Trauma Center, and doctors expect that he will make a full recovery.
The shooter’s brother was shot in the shoulder and is said to be in fair condition at a local hospital.
Yahoo News writes that the shooting took place in the Temple Hills area. Two other volunteer firefighters were also wounded in the incident as they tried to take cover when the shooting started. One suffered a knee injury, and the other sustained an injury to her jaw. Both were treated and released from the hospital on Saturday.
The shooter’s brother said that he had been particularly concerned about him because he had been having difficulty keeping his blood sugar under control and had passed out before. He said that, on trying to contact him, he didn’t answer the phone or come to the door and his car was parked in the driveway.
Ulmschneider was a 13-year veteran of the department, was married, and had a 2-year-old daughter. Officials said that he typically worked at a variety of fire departments in order to accrue overtime pay. On the day of the shooting he was working one of the extra jobs.
Diana Krieger, the mother-in-law of Ulmschneider’s brother, said that Ulmschneider had wanted to become a firefighter ever since high school and was a “caring man.”
“He wanted to help others, he loved doing what he was doing, being a paramedic and a firefighter, and I really believe that he was doing God’s work.”
By order of Maryland governor Larry Hogan, the state’s flag is being flown at half-staff to honor his memory.
“This is a day that we have all dreaded in our minds.
We are keenly aware of the dangers of our profession but we have hoped that God would continue to watch over and protect our members. Now that tragedy has stricken us, we must stand strong and band together to support (Ulmschneider’s) family and those who are closest to him.”
A donation website has been set up to assist Firefighter Ulmschneider’s family.
[Image via Shutterstock]