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Piere's is at the Marketplace of Canterbury.

Ambulance on run hit by gunfire

5 hurt, including medic; 3 arrested after nightclub fight

It all started a little before 3 a.m. Sunday, just as Piere's was closing.

A fight broke out inside the sprawling nightclub and somebody stabbed a man with a broken beer bottle. This touched off a chain of events that left an ambulance riddled with bullet holes, four people shot – including a paramedic – and three men in custody, Fort Wayne police said.

When medics got to the club at 5629 St. Joe Road, the stabbing victim was in serious condition. They loaded him into an ambulance and headed to a hospital, with his friends and family following in a black Chevrolet Impala, said officer Jeremy Webb, a police spokesman.

About a mile from the northeast-side club, the ambulance and Impala were zipping along the 2200 block of St. Joe Center Road, near the Towne House Retirement Community, when a white Ford Crown Victoria with tinted windows approached from behind.

Suddenly, gunfire erupted from the Crown Victoria, and all three people in the Impala were hit.

The three were seriously wounded but are expected to survive, Webb said.

The Crown Victoria kept speeding down the road, and gunshots again sprang from the car. This time the ambulance was hit.

"The ambulance was shot in the rear, and they had bullet holes all alongside the hull," Webb said.

Mike Gillespie, a spokesman for Three Rivers Ambulance Authority, said both back windows of the ambulance were shot out while two medics were caring for the stabbing victim. Bullet fragments hit one of those medics in his left forearm, elbow and side. He was treated at a hospital and released, Gillespie said.

The Crown Victoria passed the ambulance on its driver's side, and more shots struck the emergency vehicle. In all, it was hit at least 16 times, Gillespie said.

"It's a pretty scary thing for everybody, close to being a horrific thing," he said.

3 men charged

Despite the attack, the ambulance continued to the hospital, and the driver relayed to police a description of the Crown Victoria, which had turned off the road, and told police the direction it was traveling.

Meanwhile, the Impala pulled into the Marathon gas station at Coldwater and Washington Center roads, and the three victims in the car were met there by other paramedics. The names of the shooting and stabbing victims were not released.

The shooting was reported at 3:15 a.m., and less than 10 minutes later, an Allen County police officer found the Crown Victoria at the McDonald's downtown at Fairfield Avenue and West Jefferson Boulevard. Four men were in the car, and two of them fled, leading police on a vehicle pursuit and a short foot chase, Webb said.

All four were eventually taken into custody. Webb would not say whether police found any guns in the car or on the men. Their names were not disclosed.

Three of the men were arrested on charges not related to the stabbing or shooting. They remained in custody Sunday evening, Webb said.

The fourth man was released without being charged. All four are considered persons of interest in the case, Webb said.

He said the stabbing and shooting were "definitely" connected. "Motive hasn't been established yet," he said.

Over the years, Piere's and the immediate area occasionally has been the scene of violence. In October, three men were injured in a shooting on an adjacent property. In March 2011, a man shot and injured two men at the club. In August 2008, shots were fired into the club's crowded parking lot, according to Journal Gazette archives.

Piere's general manager, Brian Shepard, emphasized that in this case, no shots were fired at his establishment. He said the club has a no-weapons policy, video surveillance and staff trained to pat down patrons. He also pointed out that on Saturday nights, five uniformed off-duty police officers patrol the club.

"We want a safe environment for our customers," he said. "All the prevention in the world doesn't seem to stop, once in a while, having these random acts of violence."

The stabbing, shooting and chase created multiple crime scenes for police to process. Investigators interviewed victims, suspects and potential witnesses, police said.

Duty hazards

In Fort Wayne, paramedics are routinely dispatched to crime scenes and often find themselves in volatile situations. Gillespie said this incident illustrates the hazards medics can face in the line of duty.

"It's been more and more dangerous for us," he said. "It just highlights how desperate people are just to accomplish what they want."

Gillespie said ambulances in the city have been hit by stray bullets a few times but he knew of nothing like Sunday's shooting.

"We don't have anything documented where it was an attempt to cause harm," he said.

Webb said that when patients are in critical condition, police cars will escort ambulances to the hospital. In this case, however, the stabbing victim was in serious condition, so no police were driving with the ambulance, Webb said.

Gillespie said police escorts are usually meant to expedite an ambulance run by blocking intersections and clearing traffic. In light of this shooting, he said, the security benefits of having a squad car along for the trip may receive consideration.

"This is something we never would have anticipated," he said of the shooting. "Now that it's happened, we may have to take a look at it and take a different approach."

aingersoll@jg.net

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