Police stopping an emergency vehicle?

February 20, 2008 9:08:31 PM PST
A local driver says police put the brakes on his life-saving mission.That driver was trying to get a surgeon to an important flight to harvest organs. But what happened next has some asking questions and police defending their actions.

The owner of the company says emergency vehicles are sometimes pulled over by police. Police say they are just doing their job, but we also found there are few laws regulations when it comes to marking and lighting up a private emergency vehicle that you may be pulling off the road for.

Mike Hernandez says he was just doing his job. Last Monday the lights and sirens were on as he says he drove an Emergency Services vehicle toward Hobby Airport.

"I don't abuse the privileges, if you see them on it's for a purpose," said Hernandez.

He was just minutes from dropping a local surgeon off at the airport to catch a flight, to pick up organs for a children's transplant, when he saw another set of lights in his rear view mirror.

"He got behind us and we thought he was going to be a chauffeur, so we just kept going and next thing you know he said over the loud speaker pull over," Hernandez said.

Hernandez says he was ordered out of the vehicle and accused of impersonating a police officer and the surgeon was questioned.

"Like I was a criminal, I don't think they needed to do all that," he said.

Houston police confirm the traffic stop.

"The officers observed a dark colored vehicle with internal emergency lights and sirens that they didn't recognize," said Sgt. John Chomiak of the Houston Police Department.

William Aldy is the owner of the private Emergency Services Company.

"I think they could have found out the information they wanted to know by simply calling the number on the back of the unmarked vehicle that they said was unmarked," Aldy said.

Aldy's company not only transports surgical teams and organs, but patients too and says this isn't the first time it has happened to him or some of his colleagues.

"Any delay at all could greatly hinder the successful implantation of these organs," he said.

Police say the officers were doing their job.

"I want to assure the citizens that our police officers in the post 9/11 period are trained to respond to and take action against any type of suspicious activity or circumstance," Sgt. Chomiak said.

While police suggested Aldy add more lights and markings on his vehicle, Eyewitness News found that may be part of the problem. While the state transportation code gives guidelines to volunteer fire departments, it does not specify private emergency vehicles. DPS says it only regulates vehicles that carry patients and the city of Houston's permit process only applies to ambulances.

Police say in this particular stop, as soon as they confirmed the company was legitimate, they let Hernandez and the doctor go. Hernandez says it was 45 minutes later.

"I do feel like someone's life is in my hands and I have a job and only a certain amount of time to get it done," Hernandez said.

But William Aldy is afraid next time could end claiming a life.

"We should be working on the same team," Aldy said.

Aldy says he welcomes any suggestions from police and the department of health while police say they are willing to meet and talk about the issue.

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