With TV news helicopters following every twist and turn, Philadelphia police on Friday night pursued a stolen ambulance back and forth across Northeast Philadelphia for more than an hour before the vehicle was disabled and the driver was finally arrested.
The drama began sometime before 9:20 p.m., when a medic unit responded to a report of a domestic case involving a man in his 40s and a woman at the Roosevelt Inn at 7600 Roosevelt Blvd., said Staff Inspector Sekou Kinebrew. The man allegedly became combative and the medics called police for assistance.
When officers arrived the man jumped into the unoccupied ambulance and started driving toward an officer, who then fired four shots and hit the man twice in the left leg and once in the side. The medic vehicle struck the officer and sped away. The officer was taken to Nazareth Hospital to be treated.
The ambulance, assigned to Medic 49 at 9197 Frankford Ave., struck two police cruisers and at least one civilian vehicle during the pursuit that was mostly slow-paced but punctuated by bursts of speed, especially when police units got close.
At one point, the medic unit appeared trapped by several police cars, and the man opened the driver door and held his hands up. Officers approached him with their guns drawn. But then he suddenly pulled back into the ambulance and sped away.
Later, a tow truck driver tried to intervene and block the ambulance, but the medic unit struck the tow truck and took off. The pursuit continued, with the medic unit emitting smoke from its wheels, news choppers overhead, and police vehicles monitoring its progress.
Police said there was no one else in the ambulance though initially they believed paramedics might have been trapped inside.
At one point, the ambulance T-boned a small sedan, but police had no immediate reports of injuries to civilians.
Just before 10:40 p.m., the medic unit, by then with both front tires blown out, possibly from police-deployed spike strips, and riding on rims, stopped in the area of Walnut Hill and Tolbut Streets, after a chase through a small portion of the Northeast.