By AVRIL REGIS
EMT worker Betty Higdon, was not expecting to leave a patient’s Bronx home in the back of the ambulance she drove everyday.
Higdon was attacked in the Bronx while trying to help a heroin addict, said Brooklyn DA Charles Hynes on Tuesday.
“I was treating a patient for altered mental status when he became violent, grabbed my shirt started punching my head, started choking my neck until I couldn’t breath,” said Higdon who still wears a neck brace from the injuries. ” He grabbed my hair and he started whipping my head back and forth. He came out of the restraints and I was unable to call for help, unable to reach my emergency button.”
Higdon’s attack finally came to an end when the two reached the hospital.The patient turned attacker walked away after assaulting Higdon but her fellow EMS workers were able to restrain the patient.
The increase in such incidents was highlighted at a press conference Tuesday on the steps of Borough Hall held by Hynes and Fire Commissioner Salvatore Cassano who urged the state lesislature to increase penalties for assaulting all uniformed workers from a Class A misdemeanor to a Class C felony and to rewrite the law from “serious physical injury” to merely “physical injury.”
“We are not going to tolerate sending our heroes into harm’s way in Brooklyn,” said Hynes, “and not expect some freak-o to understand that you’re going to pay a price if you assault one of these people who are coming to help people in need.”
Higdon’s assailant was charged with a misdemeanor for strangulation and misdemeanor assault. With help from the DA, Higdon is hoping to get the charge changed to a felony assault for future victims.
The Uniformed EMS Officers Union reported that 60 to 70 workers are injured on the job every year, many due to assaults.