Friday, February 18, 2011

The Bad Samaritan: Low-Life Refuses to Respond to Giffords Shooting

Photography of Mark Ekstrum in uniform with the U.S. Flag behind him.U.S. Congresswoman Gabby Giffords was shot in the head January 8, 2011. An internal Tucson city memo unearthed February 17, 2011, revealed that Mark Esktrum, a 28-year old veteran of the Fire Department, refused to go to the scene of the shooting. Why? Esktrum shucked his sworn duties citing political differences between himself and Giffords.


The Arizona Daily Star reports, an internal Tucson city memo states that Esktrum “started to say… he had a much different political viewpoint than the rest of the crew and he was concerned.” Fire Capt. Ben Williams wrote in a memo that when Esktrum told him he would not go on the call, "he mentioned something about 'political bantering' and he did not want to be part of it." Esktrum told the Captain he was going to be sick for the rest of the day. His squadron had to go to another fire department to pick up a replacement before going to the scene of the shooting.

Humanity, just basic humanity, compels us to be better than that. His hatred for Giffords political beliefs were so strong, he felt somehow justified to ignore Giffords and the other killed and injured in the mass shooting.

It makes me wonder about the care and service Esktrum gave others who might not agree with him, or be like him. Did he let an African-American’s house burn a longer by not directing the fire hose directly on the hot spot? Did he treat people with disabilities less inhumanely than able bodied people? All his actions become suspect.

I’ve read several news sources about this story and none say if Esktrum is a tea-partier, but my guess is, he is. I feel relatively comfortable making broad brush judgments about this scumbag, since he had no trouble making them about Giffords. The callousness of his actions mirror those tea partiers who claim Christianity but do not believe they are their “brother’s keeper.”

This reminds me a story I learned as a child.

A man asks Jesus, "…who is my neighbor?"

Jesus said: A Jewish man walked along a road. He was coming from Jerusalem and was heading to Jericho, a two-day walking trip.

The road was rocky and hilly. The man was walking and enjoying the nice day when suddenly a group of men jumped him. They took all his belongings and tore off most of his clothes. They beat him very badly, and left him lying and bleeding on the side of the road.

A few minutes later a priest was walking down the same path and noticed the man lying on the side of the road. He crossed the road and walked on the other side and acted like he didn't see the man.

Later another man called a Levite; (Levites assisted priests) was walking down the road. He slowed down and walked a little closer to the man, but then kept walking without helping him at all.

Then a Samaritan walked toward the injured man. Jews and Samaritans didn't get along well. But as soon as the Samaritan saw the injured man he went over to him and felt compassion for him. He put bandages on his sores and poured oil and wine on the sores to prevent them from getting worse. Then he lifted the man onto his own donkey and took him to a hotel to take care of him.

The next day the Samaritan gave the innkeeper enough money so the man could stay at the hotel and receive care for two months. If he wasn't better after about two months the Samaritan told the innkeeper he would come back and pay for any extra cost.

Jesus asked the group, "Which of the three men do you think was a neighbor to the man who was left beaten on the side of the road?"

A man replied, "The one who had compassion and helped him." Jesus told him, "Go and do the same."

Esktrum and every so-called “Christian” legislator in Illinois, New Jersey, Ohio, Arizona and Wisconsin should read the parable and examine their own actions. So should the “Christian” US legislators as they give tax breaks for the richest 2% in the land, wage war against the poor, and cut social programs.

Ever out for his own interests, Mark Ekstrum, quickly retired two days later, as the department was deciding what kind of disciplinary action they should take against him.


Tom said...

Thank you Cilla:

There is a huge lack of compassion and tolerance and an excess of meanness and ignorance on the right of the political spectrum. They would rather believe lies when the truth contradicts their racist self centered world view.

Michelle said...

It's unconsionable that a Fireman would refuse to go to an emergency. Why did he become a Foreman. He should be terminated. Politics has no place in a life or death situation, it is outrageous. If help had gotten there sooner would that child or one of the other victims survived?

shannon h. pennington said...

and you what???l just arrived at your remf conclusions on the man by what oh judging him....good for you....and in other words they judged someone a long time ago too and he ended up on a stick on a hill near in the holy ya think mayby the guy had had enough of everything? check out the website on stress and flogg us for the years and then condem us for our want us to be there all the time....the man is a hero and that is enough to say....did he or did he not serve...and you...all you did or have done is cheap cheap....

North American Fire Fighter Veterans Network on the web

get real...

Big Noise said...

Shannon, I am not passing judgement on all firefighters, just one. I believe 99.9% or even more, live up to their sworn duty. They behave exemplary behavior and have proven it time and time again.

This firefighter made a decision based on political differences... which is reprehensible.

There are many heros in the fire and police departments across the country and world; some of them are related to me. I know the dangers and sacrifices they make for us. They believe he should have been fired, on the spot for his refusal.

Esktrum is not a hero. Yup, I judged him. It's my opinion, and my blog. It differs from you. But you can judge me for that, as you did. OK my me.

Mike said...

I was shocked when I heard the story, then I investigated and realized Shannon is right. I can only assume your read the story from the Arizona Star and not the AP which left out so much but appears you did not. After reading the Star I found it hard to believe it was politically motivated. I do understand the truth here is sad and not exciting and you and other media have to earn a pay check. Maybe his work in Haiti scarred him and he could deal with more trauma. I do want to ask that if you think (judged in your words) this man is a bad man why are you not screaming for a investigation in to the Fire Department that employed him for 28 Years? Why would they let a low life like this work there with all the issues you think he has had. The answer is it was a great employee and Firefighter who suffered to much Trauma and it is obvious that the anxiety of this incident crushed him and now we must beat him some more because he is human?

Anonymous said...

Thank you for your thoughtful and intelligible response to my blog article. I read it carefully and considered each of your points and want to share my thoughts with you.
• My use of the word "low-life" was cliché, a cheap shot, and unnecessary. It should have just read "firefighter."
• I do not make a paycheck for writing my blog. You will not find any ads on my blog. I started it several ago to mostly give voice to the civil rights and equal protections for people with disabilities. I also blog about other topics of injustice and bigotry.
• I am happy Ekstrum has friends, family, and colleagues who want to support and even try to defend him. He will need that support to get past to forgive himself and his failing. It is devastating when we fall short of the best we believe of ourselves.
• However, you or others do not address his refusal to go to the shooting for political reasons, as he said initially. The Captain did not make up those words. They belong to Esktrum. It was later, in retrospect, when he realized how badly that sounded, and came up with other reasons for refusing to uphold his sworn duty and went home.
• I did not know that he went to Haiti. Did he go as a first responder? Perhaps his work in Haiti did scar him. However, good people can make horrific mistakes; going to Haiti, or responding to a local call excellently does not erase refusing to go on a call because he differed politically from one of the victims.
• Esktrum is not the victim in this story; the victims were lying on a parking lot in front of a grocery store.
• PTSD is a serious disease. In my state, firefighters and police officers can retire after 20 years of service, precisely because the stress of the job. It appears Esktrum stayed on the force another eight years; apparently it had not affected his job performance. If the primary reason he did not respond was because of PTSD, why didn’t he leave earlier? Why endure eight years of internal torture.
• Unlike many others I hear from, I do not believe he should lose his pension. He put in his time, and then some; he deserves it. I do believe he deserves to be disciplined for his lack of action.
Before I became disabled, I worked as a post neuro-surgical and oncology nurse. I too have seen some pretty horrific things and have been directly involved in life/death decisions. After 17 years of work, I could feel myself become a little less effective, less empathetic, less of what I wanted to be as a nurse.
I took a position where my nursing supported, but was not essential, to my work. I went back to school earning a degree in Business Management. I no longer had to make life and death decisions. I think it is what people in stressful public service positions should do when they get burned out or develop PTSD.
From time to time, since I left nursing, I have been the first person on the scene of a fire, 3 automobile accidents, a child injured in a bicycle accident, and a few other minor incidents. I wheeled toward the accidents, not away. I am limited in my ability to do a complete rescue, but I can still put tourniquets on mangled limbs; monitor pulse and respirations; keep people calm and still; and stop others, who do not know first aid, from removing accident victims from a car, thus preventing further injury. Mostly, I do what I can do, until the real first responders make it to the scene. After those incidents were over, I usually went to have a good cry or a stiff drink to calm my nerves. Each incident brought up other traumas that happened in my past.
Until a mad man shot Gabby Giffords and so many others, I could not fathom that a first responder would turn and walk the other way for any reason. Political differences should have no quarters when responding to human suffering.

Jeff Swenson said...

The world has changed and there is no room for love and compassion anymore! It is really shocking to see that a fireman did not rush to the aid of the victim just because of the simple reason that he has political differences. He was allowed to die. It is sad and unfortunate. Hatred, war and terror now rule the world. Are we animals or heartless creatures? We have killed humanity and now do not believe in brotherhood. What examples are we going to leave for our children? Do we want them to grow up in the same way???