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More training recommended to protect Prince George’s Co. firefighters after 2016 shooting death

John Ulmschneider was shot and killed on a call by a homeowner in April 2016. (Courtesy Prince George's County Fire Department)

WASHINGTON — A review of the 2016 shooting death of a Prince George’s County firefighter is being used to find ways to prevent situations exactly like the one that led to the shooting of two emergency responders that left one dead.

When John Ulmschneider was shot and killed in Temple Hills in 2016, the Prince George’s County firefighter and EMT was responding to a wellness call. He, along with his partner and his killer’s brother, all thought they were doing the right thing.

And the current fire chief agrees.

“They did everything that they were supposed to do,” said Ben Barksdale, the chief of the Prince George’s County Fire and EMS department.

But at the same time, with hindsight and the completion of a thorough review of the situation, he now admits “the tactics that they used that day perhaps could have been a little bit different.”

Some of the recommendations address communication in situations like the one that led Ulmschneider’s death, stressing in this particular instance there was too much confusion hampering the response. But Barksdale says training for forced entry situations will also be updated and improved.

“We are going to look at how we will train for forcible entry,” said Barksdale. “Maybe instead of standing directly in the doorway you’re off to the side. How you force entry, when you force entry, should the police department be on scene?”

Ballistic vests are also going to be considered further, while dispatchers will be tasked with asking about any potential weapons inside the home so first responders are aware of the situation.

Some recommendations can be implemented fairly quickly. Others will take more time to implement. Barksdale says a task force is working to come up with a plan to adopt the needed changes later this year.

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