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Calif. firefighters hear gunshots outside station, rush to help victims

By Melissa Pinion-Whitt
The San Bernardino County Sun

SAN BERNARDINO, Calif. — A tense few moments followed the sound of six to eight gunshots outside Fire Station 7 late Tuesday.

Firefighter-paramedic Greg Soria and his crew stood up in the living room of the station, looked out the window and saw a man lying in the middle of the intersection of 40th Street and Electric Avenue.

“This guy was in the middle of the street almost getting hit by cars,” Soria said.

The firefighters had to make a decision: Wait for the police or run outside and save the man in the street, not knowing if the shooter was still in the area.

The firefighters called dispatchers and then rushed to help the wounded man. That’s when Soria noticed a second gunshot victim lying unconscious on the southeast corner of the intersection.

A third man wounded by gunfire had already run from the scene to a nearby apartment complex.

Donzell Tate Jr., 19, of San Bernardino died at the scene at 9:25 p.m., San Bernardino County coroner’s officials said.

Paramedics took two other 19-year-old men to Loma Linda University Medical Center for treatment of critical gunshot wounds. They were expected to survive, said San Bernardino police Sgt. Dave Dillon.

Police did not have a motive for the shooting but suspect it may be gang-related. No arrests had been made.

“We need to find a couple more witnesses to piece things together, and we’re out searching for them at this point,” Dillon said.

Police said the shooters and victims were both in the area at 9:22 p.m. when they got into an argument and shots were fired.

“We have recovered a couple weapons from another location,” Dillon said.

It was an odd location for a shooting — a busy intersection and a stone’s throw from a fire station. And it was so close that the gunshots jolted firefighters, who were between calls.

“We heard probably six to eight shots, and they were loud and sounded close,” Soria said.

Some surrounding residents weren’t sure initially it was a shooting.

Eddie Elawal said he’s so used to hearing vehicles backfire in the area, he thought it was a car making the noise.

Maji Awar, 40, who lives with his 82-year-old father near 40th and Electric, said he didn’t return home until after the shooting, but the aftermath of the violence was still unnerving.

Marshall Hairston said he received a frantic phone call from his wife, who was home alone when the shots rang out.

The couple, who had moved to San Bernardino from Seattle, said they plan to move out of the area, especially since the shooting hit so close to home.

“When I’m at work, I can’t be worried about my wife. She was so scared, she turned off all the lights,” Hairston said.

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