How a Montgomery Co. firefighter trained in martial arts stops carjacking of an ambulance

A D.C. man tried to steal an ambulance and a car — instead, he got two punches and a kick from a Montgomery County, Maryland, firefighter.

The would-be carjacker who targeted an ambulance as his ride home from an area hospital got a lot more than he bargained for, since the firefighter operating it was a trained mixed martial arts fighter.

Firefighter Diego Peclat was waiting by an ambulance outside Washington Adventist Hospital in Takoma Park on July 28 when he said he saw a patient sneak up behind a nurse near an entrance and try to grab her.

“I interfered, stopped him and told him to go back to his bed,” Peclat said.

diego peclat
Montgomery County firefighter Diego Peclat stopped a would-be carjacking of an ambulance and a car. (WTOP/Mike Murillo)

But moments later, Peclat said he caught the man trying to break into his ambulance. Peclat was able to get the man to leave, only to hear seconds later the yelling of a driver nearby.

“The guy went on and opened the car door, and I was like, ‘Man, here we go,'” Peclat said.

Peclat went over to the car to help. That’s when he said the man reached at him.

Peclat responded with two punches and a kick, before slipping on a folder of papers the man had dropped on the ground.

As he got up, Peclat said the man pulled out a knife. Peclat told him, “Hey, you want to put that away.”

As a rookie firefighter working with him on the ambulance called for help, Peclat said he saw a security guard from the hospital trying to sneak up behind the man with a blanket.

After continuing to urge the man to put the knife down, Peclat said the man relaxed for a moment.

“As he does that, I start going toward him and the security guard grabbed him from behind, around his arms; and I just took them both down,” Peclat said.

Peclat and the security guard held the man until police arrived.

Before joining Montgomery County Fire and Rescue Service, Peclat was a professional fighter. He said that he never thought he would need to use those skills while on the job as a firefighter.

“We’re here to help people. At the time, I felt I was helping more people,” Peclat said.

Peclat returned to Company 1 on Georgia Avenue on Monday, after recovering from a foot injury he sustained during the incident. He said that he has received nothing but support and gratitude for what he did that day from his firefighting family.

“Thankfully, he knew how to get into that mode, where he knew how to properly defend himself and certainly knew how to handle somebody that was acting erratically and somebody with a weapon,” Sam Villani, firehouse captain, said.

The suspect, 27-year-old Christopher Broadus, was arrested by Takoma Park police on charges that include attempted first-degree assault and attempted armed carjacking.

Mike Murillo

Mike Murillo is a reporter and anchor at WTOP. Before joining WTOP in 2013, he worked in radio in Orlando, New York City and Philadelphia.

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