For Beacon native Brendon Hernandez, it was simply impulse that propelled him Monday to grab the gun out of the hands of a man who had just shot a New York City police officer in the foot.
"I was scared for our safety, for people passing by and the police officers," said Hernandez, a New York City EMT who was helping to transfer the 42-year-old gunman, Guiteau Idore, to Harlem Hospital for a psychiatric evaluation when the shooting occurred.
"I just wanted to get the gun out of there and not make anything worse," Hernandez said in an FDNY statement.
To Mayor Michael Bloomberg, the action by the 2007 Beacon High School graduate was a courageous act that may have saved lives.
"We are lucky that this was not more serious," Bloomberg said at a Monday news conference at Harlem Hospital.
The incident began to unfold about 5 a.m. Monday, when NYPD officers John Chiodi and Fausto Gomez called for an ambulance at 116th Street and Lexington Avenue in Manhattan because Idore, of Queens, was throwing bottles and assaulting someone on the street, fire officials said.
When Hernandez and fellow EMT Jean Altidor arrived, the officers put Idore into the ambulance to transport him to Harlem Hospital for psychiatric evaluation. At the hospital, as the officers were escorting Idore out of the ambulance, he attempted to flee. Police said Idore tried to escape a second time as the officers walked him into the hospital. This time, despite being handcuffed behind his back, Idore managed to grab Chiodi's gun and fire two shots, one of which grazed Gomez in the foot.
Hernandez, who was in the ambulance removing the key from the ignition, saw the officers struggling with Idore in his rearview mirror and heard the gunshots, fire officials said.
"I ran over, froze for a second, then just grabbed the gun," Hernandez said.
He managed to unload all the bullets in the gun and returned the weapon to the cops, officials said. Hernandez then grabbed a stretcher as his partner attended to Gomez's wounds.
Hernandez's sister-in-law wasn't surprised by his heroics.
"Yes, that sounds like Brendon," Beacon resident Dominique Hernandez said.
Gomez, 40, of the 25th Precinct, was treated at Harlem Hospital and later released.
Idore, who police said has a history of arrests for crimes such as assault and domestic violence, was charged with assault and menacing and was transferred to Metropolitan Hospital Center in East Harlem for evaluation.
The EMT's "did an outstanding job," said New York City Police Commissioner Ray Kelly.
Kelly said Hernandez has aspirations of joining the NYPD.
"He certainly demonstrated that he has what it takes to do the job," Kelly said.
Bloomberg, meanwhile, said he would check the police applicant waiting list for a possible opening.
For Hernandez, it was all in a night's work. According to fire officials, when his overnight shift was done, Hernandez said: "I just want to go home."
With Caylena Cahill