On Jan. 29, M Health Fairview EMS crew members Craig Anderson, Rodney Hillskotter, and Rachel Ross were posted at an Inver Grove Heights Fire station awaiting ambulance calls when they heard on the radio scanner that a vehicle had just been stolen from a gas station one mile from them.
As police shared a detailed description of the stolen vehicle – and an advisory that a six-month-old child in the backseat had also been taken – a red Jeep Liberty matching the description drove past their location in clear sight.
“I could not get my seatbelt on fast enough and put the ambulance in drive,” said Anderson.
The ambulance crew followed the stolen vehicle, which turned into a large parking lot within a short few minutes. While the team stationed itself a safe distance away from the Jeep, Hillskotter remained on the phone with responding officers to relay continuous updates until law enforcement arrived. Once officers arrived, they found the baby safe and unharmed while the suspect was apprehended as he walked away from the vehicle. The entire ordeal lasted less than fifteen minutes from when the vehicle was stolen to when the suspect was taken into custody, according to the EMS crew.
While this search-and-recovery effort had a quick turnaround, the implications of having a child involved in a vehicle theft were not lost on the EMS team. “If someone is bold enough to steal a vehicle, you never know what else they might do especially in a high-stress situation,” Ross said.
When asked what was going through his mind at the time, Anderson said: “Overwhelming joy when police officers showed up and took the suspect into custody, and knowing the child was safe.”
To recognize the actions of this EMS team, M Health Fairview Chief of Emergency Medical Services Tom Edminson fast-tracked the creation of the Chief’s Award. The award is “designed around acknowledging the actions of our staff or others that go above and beyond the typical day to day work they do,” Edminson said.
“We are very proud of the crew for their actions,” he added. “They showed great awareness of what was occurring in the area that we serve and were able to notice the wanted vehicle quickly and report the whereabouts to our police department partners.”
“Usually, the police are on scene with us to assist with medical and trauma calls,” Hillskotter said. “It was very neat to be part of a team effort to get the kid back safely, assisting law enforcement for a change.”
Ross said she is proud of her teammates and was glad to have been on shift with them that day.
“They are two phenomenal critical care paramedics. They saved a baby's life without ever even seeing him/her. It’s so like them to do something like this — they are amazing people.”
All three team members say this is an example of amazing teamwork between different services in the community – and the difference those partnerships can make.
Anderson shared this safety message for all fellow parents: “Please do not leave your children in the vehicle while you run into the store, even if it’s just for a minute. Vehicle carjacking and child abductions can happen in the blink of an eye.”