July 15, 2020

American Legion's Florida Office Selects Jacksonville Fire and Rescue Department's Engineer Vincent Harper as its Statewide Firefighter of the Year. Harper 

WJXT News4Jax’s Vic Micolucci interviews Rescue 2’s Eng. Vince Harper and Capt. Latorrence Norris about the night when a patient attacked and seriously wounded Norris in their rescue’s patient compartment. Harper wrestled with the patient to protect Norris but also sustained injuries during the incident.

On the worst night of his life, during the worst call of his 15-year career, Capt. Latorrence Norris (photo right) faced a violent and bloody fight for his own survival in the rescue unit and in the district he’s been assigned to for years.

But as bad as October 8, 2019 was for Rescue 2’s Norris and his Engineer, Vince Harper (photo left), the two men would prevail using their own might, while also benefitting from a tactical and medical assist from Rescue 4’s Lt. Ramon Ress and Eng. Matt Hoff. Also, the proximity of a UF Health security guard proved key to Norris’ wellbeing as did JFRD Fire Communications who apprised UF Health of the incident.

In January, JFRD announced Harper as the 2019 Firefighter of the Year for his efforts in subduing the man attacking Norris. In late May, the American Legion selected Harper as its Firefighter of the Year for Florida. Station 2 is also home to JFRD’s 2018 Firefighter of the Year, Engine 2’s Lt. Henry Carrow. The Legion also selected Carrow in 2018 for its state Firefighter of the Year. Carrow was enjoying a day at the beach with his family, but his relaxation turned into an ocean rescue involving a teenager who nearly drowned. 

So it’s two for Station 2 in two years– which is likely a first.

Norris said he recognized his patient-turned-attacker from a previous call. And now, Norris will never forget the man who grabbed his box cutter and slashed through his Class C button-up, turning the dark blue shirt into a red, bloody mess. Rescue 2 was almost to the emergency room when Harper realized his officer was in distress and parked the rescue. Despite the assault, Norris had managed to call for help. As Harper directly intervened, he also sustained injury from the attacker. 

Rescue 4 arrived first to the scene, and the attacker was still trying to overcome Harper’s restraint. Ress traded places with Norris, who then exited the rescue unit. Harper and Ress then held the patient until JSO arrived. Hoff then tended to Harper. Direct intervention from JSO finally subdued the attacker. Then another twist, Norris was nowhere to be found. During the commotion, the UF Health security guard, who had been monitoring JFRD’s radio traffic, traveled by golf cart to the scene, picked up Norris and rushed him to the trauma center. Norris spent six days at UF Health.