First responders to a deadly shooting at a La Jolla apartment complex in April were among those honored at this year’s San Diego Fire-Rescue Department Service Awards Luncheon.
The San Diego Fire-Rescue Foundation hosts the event every year to recognize firefighters, paramedics, lifeguards and ordinary citizens who’ve done extraordinary things in the community.
Several firefighters and paramedics received awards for their quick thinking and actions when a man opened fire at the La Jolla Crossroads apartments on April 30.
"The actual shooting was basically right in front of us," Fire Captain Jon Frichtel told NBC 7.
The gunman had been casually sitting in a lounge chair on the pool deck when he opened fire on people at a birthday party.
Frichtel said that before police even cleared firefighters in, a security guard acted quickly and brought victims right to his fire truck.
"He started taking people from the pool area while the guy was still shooting and bringing them up the road," Frichtel said, "All of a sudden a car opens up and people pour out of it with victims."
Firefighter Javier Ucha Lassalle was among the first firefighters to arrive.
"And you were just getting pulled off in all different directions," Ucha Lassalle said. "At that point, we're just trying to account for which patients do we have that are most injured, which ones do we need to get out of here first."
Ucha Lassalle had to leave a man who'd been shot in his stomach but was surrounded by friends who'd stopped the bleeding, to help victims who were more critically injured.
"As soon as I walked into the pool area, there were two girls who were shot down with multiple gunshots wounds, a couple of them to the chest. So those are definitely the patients we want to get out of there right away," Ucha Lassalle said.
Monique Clark, a 35-year-old mother of three was shot in the chest and killed.
The gunman shot six other people. Those other shooting victims did survive.
Incident Commander Frichtel said he believes quick, proactive thinking by many first responders helped get the shooting victims the care they needed.
"And in situations like that, time is critical. You want to get those people off scene and you want to get them to hospitals as soon as you can. And that's what you train to do, and that's how it went that day," Frichtel said.
Paramedic Mitchell Yeo transported some of those victims to the hospital. He is modest about being recognized for his work that day.
"We don't do this for the recognition," Yeo told NBC7. "This is our job. This is what we chose to do."