TRENTON — A firefighter scratched his arm by a stray bullet while training at a fire station gymnasium believes his deceased older brother was watching over him and saved him from a more serious injury.
Kevin Soto was using the elliptical on the second floor on Tuesday night when he heard what sounded like fireworks outside the Engine 1 and Ladder 1 fire station on Calhoun Street. He soon realized it was gunfire and he had to duck.
“Something inside of me said ‘hey, take cover. Duck.’ As soon as I dodged, bullets started flying through the window. So I went to get my radio which I left on top of the elliptical and my phone so I could get out of there. I tried to get out of there the ball grazed my arm,” Soto told the New Jersey 101.5. “All I felt was a burning sensation like a piece of hot metal burning my skin.”
“They were big balls”
He ran downstairs where his fellow firefighters also heard the shots and told them he had been hit. They started checking him for other possible hits.
“The bullets kept flying and we heard bullets entering the kitchen. A bullet entered the wall and the refrigerator. There were several bullets on the second floor and in the kitchen on the first floor,” Soto said. . “They were pretty big bullets, so it had to be a very powerful gun, especially going through walls like that. It was a scary situation.”
Soto said if he hadn’t lowered his arms and remained standing, the bullet would have hit him in the head. He credits his decision to drive his brother’s car to work for the first time since his death.
“I drove my brother’s car to work that day and that day something told me to take cover without even having had any bullets in the fire station yet. My brother and I were close. I never really believed in superstition but it’s a little weird that day, the first time in eight years of my career, I took my brother’s car to work” , Soto said.
“It was a traumatic experience”
Soto said he was taken to hospital and released several hours later. He is currently off work and will undergo physical therapy and counselling.
“It was a traumatic experience. At first I didn’t think about it, but now you sit around the house and start telling the story and you go back to sleep, you start reliving the situation. And that’s so cool right now when you go to sleep and I wake up I’m like ‘oh my God what’s going on?’ I wake up scared but I’m fine now for the most part,” Soto said.
Firefighters already wear vests on every call due to the variety of situations they get into on calls such as shootings, EMS calls, domestic violence cases, and anything police may respond to. There have also been cases in other cities where firefighters have been shot during routine fire calls.
“It’s very unfortunate that we have to wear bulletproof vests for our own safety. Personally, I don’t like doing it because I think it shows fear in the public. But nowadays you have to wear it for everything,” Soto said.
City spokesman Timothy Carroll said there were no arrests as of Thursday morning in the case.
There were 40 homicides in Trenton in 2021, the vast majority by shootings, according to an unofficial tally from MidJersey.news. All seven homicides in Trenton in 2022 were due to shootings.
Dan Alexander is a reporter for New Jersey 101.5. You can reach him at [email protected]
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