“That’s when we knew things were getting real”: Jacksonville firefighters describe response to Landing mass shooting

Jacksonville, FL — The Jacksonville firefighters who were first on scene to respond to a mass shooting at the Jacksonville Landing, say they let instincts and training guide their actions, and they didn’t think twice about going in, even though the scene hadn’t been cleared.

The station posted on Facebook Sunday night that they happened to be training in a nearby parking garage at the time. Speaking out today, they recounted how they sprung in to action when they saw people rushing out of the building, including a man coming straight up to them to say he had been shot.

“That’s when we knew that things were getting real,” says Jacksonville Fire and Rescue Department Captain Jeremy Cooke.

He says they called for help and flagged down a Jacksonville Sheriff’s officer who happened to be driving nearby. Some of the firefighters started treating that man and another victim who they found, while one went to get their nearby engine, and the rest headed to the Landing.

“The training kicks in in these situations. We are trained to stage, wait for JSO… and that just wasn’t happening in this situation. We were just thrust in to it,” Cooke says.

He was concerned for his crew, because their protective gear was in the engine, which was being retrieved, but that didn’t hold them up.

“We had to get in there, we had to do what we could to help,” he says.

Cooke says they immediately triaged patients inside, seeing both deceased and injured. The crew says they relied on their training and instincts to get to work, and that quick response likely prevented even more casualties.

“We were very blessed to be there when we were there, because I think things probably would have been a little different for a number of the patients, so we were lucky,” he says.

Despite that, he says what they did “wasn’t anything special”, and in line with how any firefighter would respond in that situation.

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