Grief-stricken S.A. emergency responders confront emotion of losing colleagues

SAPD working through grief of losing officers to gunfire, cancer

SAN ANTONIO -- The past few months have been emotionally challenging for emergency responders in San Antonio.

The San Antonio Fire Department is mourning the loss of firefighter Scott Deem, who was killed in a strip mall fire on May 18. Fellow firefighter Brad Phipps is still trying to recover from severe burns from the same fire.

Meanwhile, San Antonio police are reeling from two deadly ambushes seven months apart. SAPD Det. Benjamin Marconi was killed near public safety headquarters during a traffic stop last November.

Then Thursday, Officer Miguel Moreno became the department's latest casualty after he and Officer Julio Cavazos were blindsided with gunfire as they investigated a suspected car burglary.

Cavazos is still recovering from his injuries. The shooting suspect, Andrew C. Bice, committed suicide after shooting Moreno and Cavazos.

"We help people. We don't need help," said Yvonne Garcia, a licensed counselor and a peer support coordinator with the San Antonio Fire Department.

Garcia said first responders are reluctant to reach out for emotional support. She was with the team that provided counseling to firefighters following the death of Scott Deem.

"We come to work. We put on our equipment. We put on our armor, " she said. "We put on our emotional armor and we take care of stuff. But when we go home we take off the physical stuff. But it's hard to take off the emotional stuff."

Garcia said it's hard for these officers, firefighters and paramedics to express their feelings to their families. She said that's when problems begin.

SAPD and SAFD have counseling and chaplains available for their employees.

"We're human and we're having human responses to abnormal situations," she said.

Talking with family, clergy, friends or other coworkers is encouraged, she said. The talks Garcia said she has with firefighters are comfortable kitchen table moments where they get a chance to vent.

"We have feelings we need to deal with like everybody else," she said.

 

© 2017 KENS-TV


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