An emergency medical technician was released from a hospital two days after he was wounded at a crash scene by a heavily armed gunman who was later fatally shot by police, and he vowed to return to service as soon as possible.
“I love what I do,” Bellmore Volunteer Fire Department EMT Justin Angell said after his release Thursday, surrounded by his brother who helped save him and dozens of firefighters and fellow EMTs. “I feel fine. I’m just glad to be alive. It was just a freak accident that could happen anywhere.”
Angell, 20, and fire department members were responding to a call that a pickup truck had run into a utility pole shortly before 10 p.m. Tuesday when the driver, identified as Jason Beller, 31, of Commack, opened fire.
Angell, who had jumped out of the ambulance and began walking toward the crash scene, was hit in the hip and fell to the ground.
His older brother, Dean, 22, said he was driving the ambulance and heard the shots, but wasn’t immediately aware his brother had been hit, he said. He then drove toward the shooter, placing the ambulance as a shield between his wounded brother and Beller.
“As I pulled up I saw it was my brother on the ground,” Dean Angell said. “I jumped out, just picked him up, Chief (Robert) Taylor and a couple other firefighters and EMS people picked him up and we just took off as quick as we could, just get out of there. Because we didn’t know what was going on at that point, if he was going to shoot at us again.”
Police officers arriving at the scene then encountered the gunman, who was firing from a rifle equipped with a laser scope. An exchange of gunfire ended when a police department K-9 officer fatally shot Beller.
Beller was armed with six automatic weapons and handguns, as well as an elongated wristband with extra ammunition. Nassau County Police Commissioner Lawrence Mulvey said it was apparent that Beller was “out to commit mayhem.”
Mulvey described Beller, who apparently moved to Long Island from Florida about a year ago, as having had “some turmoil in his personal life,” although he would not elaborate.
A Beller family spokeswoman told Newsday in a statement he had been “extremely troubled,” and offered “deepest and most sincere apologies” to Angell and his family, as well as the Bellmore community. “We pray that Mr. Angell fully recovers and is not disheartened from continuing his great community service.”
Beller’s father, Dr. David Beller, is an oral surgeon in Manhattan. A woman answering the telephone at his office said Thursday that he was not available to comment.
Police in Suffolk County, where Beller lived, confirmed that officers had responded to a domestic incident at his home at about 8 p.m. Tuesday. A woman believed to be Beller’s wife later went with officers to a precinct, but then subsequently declined offers of emergency housing and decided against pressing criminal charge. She told officers instead that she would spend the night with a friend.
Citing privacy laws, police declined to identify the woman or where she went. Police also did not have immediate information on whether prior complaints had been made against Beller.
“Never in a million years that I think that it would come to the point where me and my brother were just scrambling for safety for trying to help someone,” Angell told a room full of reporters before being released from Nassau University Medical Center.
“It wasn’t making any sense, it was all so quick. It could have been a lot worse. Thank God I wasn’t that close,” he said.
Copyright 2011 The Associated Press.