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Colleagues donate blood to honor Md. firefighter-paramedic

Lt. John "Skillet" Ulmschneider was shot to death while trying to help a man in apparent medical distress last year

By Jonathan M. Pitts
The Baltimore Sun

COLLEGE PARK, Md. — A steady stream of visitors filed through the assembly hall of a church Saturday to give blood in honor of Lt. John E. "Skillet" Ulmschneider, the Prince George's County firefighter/paramedic who was shot to death while trying to help a man in apparent medical distress at a home in Temple Hills a year earlier.

Donors remembered Ulmschneider as an even-tempered professional, a maniacally hard worker and a constantly helpful presence around the firehouse.

"Skillet was one of the nicest, most genuine people I've ever met," said Danon Ushinski, a captain and 16-year veteran with the Prince George's County Fire and Emergency Medical Services Department, as he leaned back on a gurney with a needle in his arm. "People continue to emulate him. He's missed."

Making the donation was a "fitting tribute" to his longtime friend, Ushinski said, and a way to help others who might find themselves in emergency situations.

Ulmschneider, a 13-year veteran of the Prince George's department, and his partner, firefighter and emergency medical technician Kevin Swain, a Sykesville native, were responding to a call indicating a man might be in medical distress on April 15, 2016, when someone inside the residence opened fire.

Ulmschneider, 37, the married father of a 2-year-old girl, was fatally wounded. Swain, then 19, was struck four times but survived.

Darrell Lumpkin of Temple Hills was given a four-year prison sentence Friday on a charge of illegal possession of firearms. He was ineligible to use weapons as a result of a previous conviction.

A grand jury had earlier returned a murder indictment against Lumpkin.

Swain, a longtime volunteer firefighter and emergency medical technician for the Sykesville Freedom District Fire Department, decided not to attend the Saturday event, said Mark Brady, a spokesman for the Prince George's department.

Brady said Swain still has two bullets in his body but has made enough progress in his physical recovery that he has returned to volunteer firefighting with the Sykesville company.

But Swain continues "working toward recovering with behavioral and mental issues related to that night one year ago," Brady said.

Brady said he saw Swain at Lumpkin's sentencing hearing Friday.

The blood drive at Maranatha Fellowship Church came days after Rick Hoffman, president of the local firefighters' and EMS workers' union in Baltimore, called on the city to begin providing protective vests for emergency medical responders.

The need exists, Hoffman said Wednesday, because such responders are being attacked more frequently than in the past in Baltimore.

A proposed three-year contract that city firefighters and EMTs are scheduled to vote on this week calls for a committee to review the need for protective vests, and then work to seek grants to pay for them if needed. Hoffman believes the vests, which he estimates would cost the city about $100,000, are needed immediately, he said.

"I can't ignore the fact that sometimes our people wind up in situations where I think they could be better protected," Hoffman said last week.

Hoffman said he has been trying to get vests for the last two years, with no luck, ever since he noticed an increase in the number of attacks on medics following the unrest of 2015. The union on Wednesday distributed a video of two female medics being attacked by a naked man outside a downtown hospital.

At Saturday's blood drive, another friend of Ulmschneider's, former volunteer Prince George's County paramedic Morgan Ushinski, agreed that their line of work can carry high risks.

Ushinski, who is Danon Ushinski's wife, knew and worked with Ulmschneider for years and said she still finds it hard to believe he's gone.

Her eyes welled up a bit as she lay on a gurney, her blood flowing into a tube. "Skillet was such a sweet person, always so courteous and professional. You never imagine it happening to someone like him."

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McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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