Meansville, GA – When a veteran fireman witnessed a horrific car accident, he jumped into action and did everything in his power to save the victim. But even though his actions saved a woman’s life, the police officer who finally made it to the scene thanked the fireman by arresting him and throwing him in jail.
Rick Rickerson, 56, joined the Griffin Fire Department in 1985, and he has devoted his life to saving lives. He told 11Alive News that when he witnessed a car flipping over on the highway after its driver lost control, his immediately acted on instinct.
“My training pretty much kicked in as soon as I witnessed the wreck,” Rickerson said. “You go into the mode of firefighter when you see this happen. Many times, the worst thing you can do is nothing.”
The driver of the car, Rebecca Buchanan, was trapped and not breathing when Rickerson reached her. Other good Samaritans stopped their cars on the side of the highway and rushed to help Rickerson help Buchanan from her car.
In addition to administering CPR to help Buchanan breathe, Rickerson also called 911 multiple times and gives the dispatcher clear and concise reports of what was happening, and how police could help.
“This 911? Pike County? This is Rick Rickerson, I’m a retired battalion chief, Griffin Fire Department. I’m on the scene of an overturned single vehicle with a single occupant, unresponsive at this time,” Rickerson said on the first call.
The second call was made after Rickerson cleared Buchanan’s airway so that she could breathe. “No first responders are here yet; can you advise your officer in charge of fire responding that Rick Rickerson is on the scene and I would suggest them requesting life flight,” he said.
The dispatcher then relayed the news over the radio to a state trooper who responded, “I’m actually a trooper with the state patrol; I’m in training, so I’m kinda off. If you have access to life flight, I would definitely have them en route.”
When Georgia State Patrol trooper, Sgt. Rodney Jeter finally arrived on the scene, he seemed to care very little about the fact that there was a woman who was in desperate need of emergency medical assistance. Instead, he was more concerned about the fact that when Rickerson jumped out of his truck to save the woman’s life, he left it in the middle of the road with the keys in the ignition.
Rickerson told 11Alive News that he remembers Jeter approaching the group working to revive Buchanan and demanding to know who owned the car. “I said, ‘It’s mine, I need you to move it.’ And I looked over at him and I said, ‘I’m not leaving this patient,’” Rickerson said.
The police sergeant, who apparently cared more about his bruised ego than the woman whose life was hanging by a thread, responded, “Sir? I said I want this truck moved!”
But Rickerson argued that because there were no other emergency personnel members on the scene, he needed to stay by Buchanan’s side until they arrived.
In his report, Jeter claimed that Rickerson was not rendering aid to the victim of the car accident at the time Jeter arrived—which is a conflicting story that goes against the accounts of both Rickerson and other witnesses. Jeter insisted that he asked Rickerson to move his vehicle “to make room for emergency vehicles that are coming,” and that Rickerson responded:
“I don’t care who you are. You can take me to jail, but I’m not moving my vehicle or leaving this patient right now.”
Rickerson told 11Alive news that Jeter then proceeded to continue badgering Rickerson, claiming that he was a trained paramedic.
“And I questioned him, ‘You’re a paramedic? You didn’t put your hands on that patient. You didn’t help us open that door,’” Rickerson said. “All paramedics have vehicle extrication training. But he didn’t do anything to assist us with this patient.”
One of the witnesses volunteered to move Rickerson’s truck, and first responders finally arrived and loaded Buchanan onto a stretcher. However, the comments made by other officers and sheriff’s deputies on the scene were much more alarming.
A Dash Cam on one of the police cruisers caught the officers discussing Rickerson’s conduct, and saying things such as, “He thinks he knows every single thing there is to know about everything,” “He is a piece of shit. He’s a piece of shit,” and “I just hate. I hate. He is a piece. I told you there was something wrong with him.”
Jeter then confronted Rickerson and decided to read him the right act about the situation. Rickerson stood his ground, and Jeter asserted his dominance by arresting the hero who had just saved a woman’s life for “obstruction of a law enforcement officer.”
The officers on the scene were caught on the Dash Cam saying, “He’s going for a ride,” and “He’s locking his ass up!”
Rickerson was taken to the Pike County Jail where he was forced to spend several hours waiting. He now faces the first mark on his record in more than 30 years after the incident occurred on Oct. 10, 2017. But he told 11Alive News that he would do it all over again, because in the end, Rebecca Buchanan survived, and her 5-year-old daughter did not lose her mother.
“I would not do anything different. The outcome is this lady is alive. There’s no cross on the side of the road of that highway.”
Unfortunately, as The Free Thought Project has reported, Rick Rickerson is not alone. A similar incident occurred in 2003 when Capt. David Wilson, a veteran firefighter with 27 years of experience, arrived at the scene of a nasty car accident in Hazelwood, Missouri. As he was attending to the victim, he was approached by a police officer who seemed to care more about the position of the truck, than about the survivors of the crash.
When Wilson ignored orders from Officer Todd Greeves to move his vehicle, Greeves became agitated and decided to take matters into his own hands. Greeves arrested the firefighter and kept him detained by a patrol car for 23 minutes until a supervisor told him to let Wilson go. Wilson filed a civil rights lawsuit and received $17,500 in damages.
Then in March 2014, a volunteer fireman in New Roads, Louisiana, was rendering aid to a woman who passed out in her home. He was the first one on the scene, and when police arrived, instead of asking about the state of the patient, they demanded that the fireman move his truck. When he did not comply, the officer arrested and detained him for nearly 15 minutes.
In February 2014, when Jacob Gregoire, a veteran firefighter with 12 years of experience, was responding to the scene of an accident in Chula Vista, California, he was also ordered to move his truck. Gregoire ignored the commands from a California Highway Patrolman, and he was arrested and detained on the side of the highway for 30 minutes.
In response to the incident, Chula Vista Fire Chief Dave Hanneman called CHP’s behavior “ridiculous” and the firefighters’ union president John Hess praised Gregoire’s actions. “He made all firefighters look good. He was there to protect the citizens and he was willing to take a stand to do that,” Hess said.