JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Vincent Harper, one of two Jacksonville firefighters who were stabbed in October by a patient in their ambulance, has been selected as the American Legion Firefighter of the Year in the state of Florida, according to a news release from the Jacksonville Fire and Rescue Department.
Harper and Capt. Latorrence Norris spoke with News4Jax, saying they were dangerously close to losing their lives at the hands of someone they were trying to help. The JFRD partners were taking a patient to a hospital, when they said the man began attacking them with a box cutter.
“We were a couple blocks from the hospital. That’s when he pretty much flipped out,” Norris told News4Jax in January, who explained the patient stood up on the stretcher, became irate and then grabbed his box cutter from his pants.
Harper was driving the ambulance when he saw and heard the struggle, stopped the ambulance and stepped in to help.
“I was on (the man’s) back, trying to choke him and find the knife at the same time,” Harper said in January. “And I grabbed the wrong arm thinking it was in the other hand. And he bucked off of me and came with the razor knife and came across my leg.”
Eventually, the firefighters said, the attacker fell in a wheel well and the firefighters were able to pin him down until police and other rescuers arrived as backup.
If his partner hadn’t hopped in, “I would be dead right now,” Norris said. “There’s not a doubt in my mind.”
It’s the second year in a row a JFRD member has been named the American Legion Firefighter of the Year. Last year, Lt. Henry Carrow received the honor. Both firefighters are assigned to Fire Station 2 in Springfield.