Springfield Massachusetts Ambulance Patient Changes Seats In Motor Vehicle And Role In Criminal Justice System

Have you ever heard the saying “the lunatics are running the asylum”? We begin the week with a story about an interesting twist on it.

It was last night. Sunday night. All around the Commonwealth, people were preparing for a new week of work and school. The clock struck 9:30pm. Perhaps you were getting ready to retire for the evening, resting up for what the week would bring. An ambulance patient in Springfield, Mass., however, had other ideas. He decided to overtake and commandeer the ambulance.

The unnamed joy rider was being taken to Mercy Medical Center. The gentleman had been reported as acting erratically. Suddenly, he decided to turn things around. He attacked and started beating the medical technicians, successfully chasing them out of the ambulance on Chestnut Street. Once the technicians jumped ship (or ambulance), he took control of the vehicle and began driving. Apparently a stickler for consistency, he drove erratically through Springfield, hitting a Peter Pan bus, a car and then a parked car on Main Street, said Springfield Police Lt. Robert Strzempek.

The chase ended when the patient drove on the wrong side of Main Street hitting a small black car head-on, pushing it 50 feet north from Congress Street to Emery Street. The unauthorized self-transport driver is said to have received shoulder injuries.

Now facing a variety of criminal charges, including motor vehicle assault and assault and battery on the medical technicians, it is not indicated whether the driver is behind bars or awaiting the call of Justice in the intended destination…under, hopefully a better prepared, observation.


In case you are confused….this was not the Springfield where “The Simpsons” takes place; it was in Massachusetts and, while clearly animated, it was not a cartoon.
Obviously, the story could have ended incredibly tragically and there is really nothing funny about mental illness. However, the story presents a few questions that you might find interesting.

The first, and probably most obvious, question is how this could have happened. The ambulance staff knew they were transporting someone who was acting “erratically”, apparently for observation. How the patient was able to force them to jump out of the ambulance and be able to take control of the ambulance is just a tad beyond me. I would have imagined it expected that someone who was being transported because he was erratic might act….erratically. But then, it is Monday morning and I have not had my coffee yet…!

The most interesting question of this story is, now that they have caught him, what are they going to do with him? Maybe I am jaded, but it seems to me that there are likely to be serious questions of criminal responsibility and competency to stand trial. In the meantime, if he needed to be observed and perhaps hospitalized, is it going to do anyone any good to keep him in jail awaiting trial or will they simply keep him at the hospital…where he was being transported in the first place?

I know that I try to answer questions, not simply ask them, in this blog. It is meant to be informative, albeit in an entertaining manner. But, sometimes, the lessons of the day are really questions that remain, due to the human condition, questions.

If you are insistent on a more traditional lesson, I will tell you that it is illegal to forcibly take control of an ambulance, drive off, and smash into other vehicles.

Samuel Goldberg is the senior criminal defense attorney at the firm of Altman & Altman, P.C. A former prosecutor in New York, he has worked as a defense attorney in Boston over 18 years. He frequently provides legal analysis on radio and television, appearing on outlets such as the Fox News Channel, Court TV, MSNBC and The BBC Network

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