4 Ariz. firefighters placed on leave after fight with patient

Fire Chief Mark Burdick apologized for language used by firefighters who appear in the video

GLENDALE, Ariz. — Four firefighters have been placed on paid administrative leave following an incident with a patient Sunday.

AZ Central reported that firefighters had the man on a gurney after he suffered a seizure following an overdose of prescription medication.

They were moving him toward an ambulance when the incident occurred.

While on the gurney, the man punched his father and then turned his rage toward firefighters when they told him to stop.

Police arrested the man on suspicion of aggravated assault after they say he punched a pair of firefighters multiple times in the face and upper body, according to the report.

An aggravated-assault charge has also been recommended against the man's father after authorities said he hit a firefighter during the incident.

Witnesses have said the firefighters used excessive force in restraining the man, according to the report.

A bystander posted a partial video of the incident to YouTube. The footage appears to show the firefighters restraining and cursing at the man.

"I believe it was excessive," the bystander who recorded the incident said. "There are other ways of going about restraining somebody that was already in restraints. If he wasn't in the stretcher, they would have knocked him out."

Glendale Fire Chief Mark Burdick apologized for language used by firefighters who appear in the video. Chief Burdick said he called the man's mother and apologized to her as well, according to the report.

"That language was offensive by any standard," Burdick said. "I know this because I was offended by it myself."

Harsh language sometimes occurs in a hostile environment, but the department would never condone it, Burdick said.

Current policy allows personnel to use any means necessary to subdue someone if they are in a physical altercation and fear for their own safety, but another policy on handling violent patients is also being developed, according to the report.

"This week, we began pursuing additional training that will strengthen our protocols," Burdick said.

The firefighters told investigators they struck the man five or six times so he would stop hitting them, records say. Two firefighters received treatment for swollen hands and wrists before being sent home for the day.

"This was a rapidly escalating situation, and the firefighters on the scene needed to regain control," Joe Hester, president of Glendale Fire Fighters Union, said. "They had a patient lashing out, punching them, upset family members involving themselves and a number of onlookers engaged. The video doesn't tell that whole story. It just shows their response to a dynamic, challenging situation — a response driven by adrenalin and the need to regain control of what was happening."

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