We were responding to a reported gunshot wound to the head. Our dispatch told us that the patient was still breathing and that police was on scene. I tried to verify with dispatch that the scene was secure with no avail. The address turned out to be at the end of a long driveway and I made the decision that with police on scene and this being a suspected suicide that we could drive all the way up to the scene. Of course when we got to the house there was no police. I got out of the rig and an obviously distraught RP met me in the driveway. I asked him what he had and before he said anything he turned and walked back towards the house. I naturally followed him to the patient. When my crew and I got to the patient he still had a loaded 38 caliber pistol in his hand and was in fact breathing. The initial decision was made that we would not treat the patient until the police arrived and removed the pistol, although after a few minutes of waiting I grew frustrated and asked the RP if he was comfortable with removing the gun. He shook his head and proceeded into the room. I followed him in and came up behind and secured the patient’s arm as the RP removed the gun. With the gun gone we began to treat the patient. When police did arrive on scene I told him right away that the gun was removed by the RP and where it was now. The officer said OK and went about his business. We treated and transported a viable patient who later died in the ER. My crew and I sat down afterwards to debrief, and with details of the call being brought out it was apparent that we may have stumbled on to a murder scene. We later learned that there was a note and it was in fact ruled a suicide by PD.
First, I got tunnel visioned by the fact that I have followed hundreds of RPs into a house towards a patient. We absolutely should have waited the extra 7 minutes until PD did arrive before we entered the house. Second, Putting the RP in the position of having us not treat his family member and him removing the gun wasn’t wise. He’s going to make the decision that helps his family member the most. We didn’t know the RP or if he had any experience with guns. On top of the fact that if we had been walking in on a murder/staged suicide then we just put the weapon back into a suspect’s hands. Always verify that the scene is secure. No matter how badly you want to treat that patient. Nothing happened this time, but I feel sick for having put my crew into that position.