Handcuffed firefighter sues California Highway Patrol
“This isn't what I expected to do on my daughter's fifth birthday today, but I'm glad I made the decision to stand up for this,” said Chula Vista firefighter Jake Gregoire.
A sometimes uncomfortable Jake Gregoire, standing with his attorney Dan Gilleon, told us he was a reluctant plaintiff. But he added not only was he humiliated back in February, he was kept from doing his job as a first responder by, of all people, another first responder.
“I was given the order once again get 'in your truck and go back to station'…'I can't leave, I guess you'll have to arrest me.'”
It was as bizarre an incident between people in uniform as anyone can remember. February 4th, the 805 near Telegraph Canyon Road. A serious roll-over accident. Chula Vista firefighters treating patients when, according to Gregoire, CHP officers Sergio Flores repeatedly ordered the firefighter to take an engine parked in a traffic lane back to the station. Gregoire says the final order came as he was lowering a gurney for one of the injured.
As part of their training, first responders – including the CHP – are taught to park their vehicles in a way to protect themselves and the other people at the scene. When Gregoire says he told Flores he was needed for the patients, Flores handcuffed him.
“I asked him are you prepared to take care of these two patients? He said, without thinking, 'those people are not my problem.'”
What's more, Flores, according to Gregoire, put the firefighter in harms' way next to traffic when searching him, then tightened the handcuffs when Gregoire asked Flores to loosen them because his arms were tingling. Interestingly, Gregoire says he doesn't want any money; he just wants a policy change, for this can no longer be allowed to continue.
In fact, Gilleon says it's more of a training issue because of the penal code is clear: firefighters, not the CHP, are in control of an accident scene where people are injured, because it's the firefighters who are treating the patients – not the CHP.
“These firefighters' jobs are being obstructed by CHP thinking it's taking control of a scene, when they don't have command because they don't have the resources to take command of a scene where people are injured,” said Gilleon.
But given, says Gilleon, this isn't the first time there's been conflict at an accident scene between the CHP and firefighters; he adds this isn't the first issue involving Flores; Gilleon says the only way to get the CHP's attention may be through monetary damages. Gilleon also says higher-ups on both sides seem to be trying to sweep the incident under the rug. The CHP declined comment, saying the issue is not under litigation.