Gainesville Police say Juan Lopez, 23, stole a Gainesville Fire Rescue support truck while crews treated a cardiac patient early Sunday.
Police say the Chiefland man had been fighting with his wife at the Kangaroo Express gas station on Archer Road near I-75 around 4 a.m. Sunday. Lopez’s wife claims the man was too drunk to drive. Police say Lopez then began yelling and punched his wife with a closed fist in the jaw. The victim then drove off, leaving Lopez at the gas station.
Nearby, at the McDonald’s on Archer Road, Gainesville Fire Rescue crews were treating a cardiac patient.
Reports say, Lopez got into the driver’s seat of the crew’s vehicle, “Squad 2”, and drove off. After a chase west on Archer Road, police caught up with Lopez and the truck at Southwest 111 Terrace.
“This was a brazen act by this individual, and we are thankful no one was killed or injured,” said GFR Fire Chief Jeff Lane. “Our fire fighter’s duty is to focus on the emergency at hand and on saving of lives, it is unfortunate that such an incident causes us concern for their safety. It is truly a sad statement that there are individuals under the influence or otherwise who have no boundary and a lack of respect for our responders and their vulnerability.”
The stolen truck, “Squad 2”, was a support truck that officials say is routinely used to assist ambulances and fire trucks with supplemental equipment.
Reports say the truck suffered significant damage during the chase. According to GFR officials, damage to the tires and rims, the electrical system, and the truck’s hydraulic power unit left the truck un-drivable.
GFR is now conducting an investigation on the incident.
Lopez’s charges include grand theft auto and interfering, assaulting, or hindering firefighters. As of Sunday, Lopez is behind bars at the Alachua County Jail on $75,000 bond.