Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Firefighters honored for capturing chain snatcher

A story from this week's Bronx Press.

By David Greene

New York's bravest took a page from New York's finest last week when three firefighters chased down and detained a suspected criminal. City Councilman James Vacca (grey suit) honored (L-R) Ronny Fuentes, John Hessler and Chris Magnotta last week for their heroic efforts. They are all from Engine Co. 90, Ladder 41 in the Bronx.
Members of fire companies Engine 90 and Ladder 41 were recognized once again for their heroic efforts, but not for running into a fire or performing a rescue, instead the honor came for capturing a chain snatcher in the Allerton neighborhood of the Bronx.

Oddly enough, the two units were returning from a call at about 8:25 p.m. on Saturday, Nov. 26, when the units requested police to the scene for a, "robbery in progress." Five minutes later they would report that they had the suspect in custody.

At a press conference outside of the White Plains Road firehouse, City Councilman James Vacca presented firefighters Ronnie Fuentes, John Hessler and Chris Magnotta with special citations for their heroic actions, not knowing if the suspect was armed with a weapon or not.

Deputy Inspector Kevin Nicholson of the 49th Precinct said the three firefighters helped stop a repeat offender. 

"The (same) perpetrator... robbed a female white, 62. Four hours later he's out robbing an 18-year-old girl and these guys caught him."

Jump below for the full story.

Vacca then added, "This was a guy that was wanted by the police department. This is a guy who continued to victimize women of all different ages and they did a fantastic job."

Recalling the incident, fireman Chris Magnotta stated, "Engine 90 turned the corner and sees a gentleman running in the opposite direction and we get up to the corner and see a girl on the floor."

With the suspect running along Holland Avenue, Magnotta continued, "Johnny jumped off the rig and started to approach him, and Ronnie was right behind John."

The firemen reportedly asked the man where he was going, when he replied, "My girlfriend's house." As the three FDNY members prevented him from getting away, Hessler added, "He said it wasn't me." 

The firefighters said they had no fear for their safety and weren't concerned about the suspect possessing a weapon until their heroic deed was over.

Both Fuentes and Hessler were honored before in similar fashion, as the two were instrumental in saving the life of an infant being dangled out of a Pelham Parkway home during an apartment fire and rescuing several residents from a burning home on Unionport Road. 

“Lots of old ladies and girls have been getting choked and mugged, so I’m glad we actually got the guy,” Fuentes said. 

Magnotta added, "We were just at the right place at the right time, and I think anybody would have done the same thing, seeing a young girl on the floor." 

Vacca awarded certificates of appreciation to the heroic trio. The firefighters, asked if they had received the night off for their efforts, responded with a smile that they had not. 

Vacca added that he was grateful that FDNY members are now, "multi-tasking."

The suspect was turned over to police and identified by the victim at the scene. Police charged John Paulino, 21, of 374 E. 209 Street in Norwood, with robbery and criminal possession of stolen property, including jewelry found from the earlier crime. Paulino has four previous arrests for assault and theft of service.

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