Man Accused in Attack on Firefighters ID'd: Officials

The stabbing shocked senior supervisors and captains who, Mainar said, were visibly shaken to the point of tears.

The man accused of attacking two on-duty firefighters in downtown San Diego has been identified by law enforcement officials.

Ryan Allen Jones, 34, faces charges of attempted murder, assault with a deadly weapon and resisting arrest.

Jones is accused of stabbing two firefighters multiple times Wednesday afternoon as emergency personnel treated a patient in East Village. 

The investigation is ongoing but it appears when firefighters arrived, the suspect was asked several times to move back. When he continued to interfere, "an altercation occurred," officials said.

"This thing went bad very, very quickly," said Fire Chief Javier Mainar who described the incident as a "near death" experience for two veteran firefighters.

"They thought they were being punched and before they knew it they realized they were being stabbed," he said.

Firefighter/Paramedic Benjamin Vernon, 32, received multiple stab wounds in the back and suffered a collapsed lung. He was in serious condition and expected to be hospitalized for several days.

Firefighter Alex Wallbrett, 37, rushed to help his colleague and was stabbed more than once in the upper torso. He was released from the hospital Thursday, according hospital admissions.

Metropolitan Transit System (MTS) officers used pepperspray to subdue Jones and take him into custody. He does not appear to have any relationship with the man who was being treated by firefighters.

The stabbing shocked senior supervisors and captains who, Mainar said, were visibly shaken to the point of tears.

There was nothing about the call that would suggest it was a dangerous situation for fire crews, what the department refers to as a “stand back” situation, the chief said.

No motive for the attack has been determined, according to Chief of Police Shelley Zimmerman.

Mainar said the suspect may have been trying to advise firefighters on how to treat the patient.

Chief Zimmerman said SDPD detectives recovered video evidence and a folding knife from the scene.

Anyone with additional information or video can contact San Diego Police at (619) 531-2000 or (858) 484-3154 or NBC 7 Investigates at (619) 578-0393.

Vernon and Wallbrett are part of engine company Fire Station 4 and Medic 36. They are veteran firefighters, hired before July 20, 2012 according to the firefighters union president.

Alan Arrollado President San Diego City Firefighters said the job is an extraordinarily dangerous one and Wednesday's attack really brings that fact home.

"We get comfortable with the risks that we take and sometimes when these things happen, we realize the risks that we're taking," Arrollado said

Mayor Kevin Faulconer visited both firefighters last night and the department has received many calls and well wishes from elected officials, according to the fire chief. 

“This is nothing I’ve faced in my 35 years,” Mainar said. “It is quite difficult when you really just come to work that day hoping to help someone.”

Chief Mainar said he hopes this incident will remind crews in the field to be vigilant.

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