In what fire and police chiefs are calling an "unfortunate incident," a firefighter tending to victims at a freeway crash scene Tuesday night was handcuffed and put in the back of a squad car by a California Highway Patrol officer. As CBS8 cameras rolled, the police officer ordered firefighter Jacob Gregoire to move his truck out of the fast lane of I-805 in Chula Vista, but he refused, said he would have to speak to his captain, and continued assisting the victims—a sedan had reportedly gone over a concrete guard rail—until the officer handcuffed him.
Gregoire, who has been with the Chula Vista fire department for 12 years, was released without charge after spending about 30 minutes in the back of a patrol car, when supervisors from both agencies intervened. One crash victim, meanwhile, was taken to the hospital. Chula Vista's fire chief says he stands by the firefighter. He says fire crews are trained to use their rigs to block incoming traffic to protect crash victims and emergency responders. "I know clearing the freeway is a priority for the CHP," he tells the San Diego Union-Tribune. "Our No. 1 priority is the safety of our firefighters and patients." He says he has met with CHP officials to discuss ways of making sure this never happens again. But as CBS8 points out, this isn't a first in California: In 2010, a Montecito Battalion Chief responding to a crash in Santa Barbara County was handcuffed by the CHP after also refusing to move a truck that was blocking traffic.