Firefighter Refused to Respond to Giffords Shooting
Cited political reasons at first, but later said he was just too distraught
By Evann Gastaldo,  Newser Staff
Posted Feb 18, 2011 8:16 AM CST
Emergency personnel work at the scene where Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, D-Ariz., and others were shot outside a Safeway grocery store in Tucson, Ariz. on Saturday, Jan. 8, 2011.   (AP Photo/Matt York)

(Newser) – A Tucson firefighter may have slowed down his unit’s response to the Jan. 8 shooting spree targeting Gabrielle Giffords—because he refused to go out on the call. According to city memos, Mark Ekstrum, a 28-year veteran, “mentioned something about 'political bantering' and he did not want to be part of it” when he refused, and said he was acting "for the good of the crew." Upon being told that wasn’t a valid reason for refusing a call, Ekstrum "started to say something about how he had a much different political viewpoint than the rest of the crew" then told his captain he was going home sick. As supervisors considered how to discipline him, he retired two days later, the Arizona Daily Star reports.

Ekstrum’s refusal caused “confusion and delay” during the preparatory process, and one fire engine had to stop along the way to pick up a replacement, but his crew was not one of the initial teams on the scene; they responded in a support, not emergency, fashion. Ekstrum later apologized and explained in a statement that he doesn’t have any problem with Giffords and even voted for her in the last election, but that he was distraught over the shooting and thus “distracted to the point of not being able to perform my routine station duties to such an extent that I seriously doubted my ability to focus on an emergency call.” In lighter Giffords news, the Star notes that she sang “American Pie” over the weekend, and knew all the words.