It’s not unusual to see a Ware County ambulance traveling at a high rate of speed, heading into a residential area in response to a medical emergency.
What is unusual is when a “grand theft auto” suspect is behind the wheel, driving recklessly and heading for no place in particular.
Not often does someone steal an ambulance in the hospital’s ER parking lot and take police on a merry, high-speed chase before stopping and surrendering, but that’s just what happened in Waycross Thursday morning.
A man receiving treatment in the emergency department of Memorial Satilla Health, 1900 Tebeau St., Thursday, stole a Ware County ambulance and took lawmen on a hot pursuit through town and county before being stopped and apprehended on Gibbs Street near its intersection with Washington Avenue, said Waycross Police Major Chris Tatum.
Paul Robert Nilo Hickok, 38, of 1531 Palmer St., Green Cove Springs, Fla., was at the hospital for treatment about 10:30 a.m. Thursday when he walked out of the emergency department and entered the rear patient compartment of a parked 2017 Chevrolet Silverado C3500 Ware County ambulance valued at about $140,000 (with contents, $200,000), said Tatum.
A Ware County EMT who was in the ambulance at the time was frightened by the man’s sudden appearance, causing her to flee out the side door of the patient compartment, said Tatum.
“Hickok made his way into the driver’s seat and drove away in the ambulance,” said Tatum. “Law enforcement was immediately notified of the theft by hospital security staff and EMS personnel.”
The Ware County Communications Center (911) began receiving calls from citizens about an ambulance that was “crazy out of control,” almost hitting cars, running stop signs and running people off the road, he said.
“Hickok drove from the hospital to Valdosta Highway and then to Needham Road where he turned south and began to drive back toward town,” said Tatum.
“Hickok drove from the hospital to Valdosta Highway and then to Needham Road where he turned south and began to drive back toward town,” said Tatum.
Apparently, he didn’t know how to operate the lights and sirens because the ambulance was silent, Waycross police Capt. Tommy Cox said.
“He did not turn on the siren or the lights, but he was talking on the radio and was making threats,” said Cox.
Waycross police set up to intercept the ambulance on Gibbs Street at the city limits, Tatum said. He said a patrol officer was successful in getting Hickok to pull over near where Gibbs Street intersects with Washington Avenue.
Ware County deputies arrived and assisted the city in taking Hickok into custody at 10:44 a.m.
Hickok was taken by police back to the hospital for a complete medical evaluation, said Tatum.
He is being charged with theft by taking of a motor vehicle, driving under the influence and driving while his license is suspended or revoked, said Tatum.
Following medical evaluation and treatment, Hickok was to be booked into the Ware County jail, said Tatum.
Cox said he was thankful that the incident ended peacefully without anyone getting injured in the process.
Cox declined to provide information regarding why the man was was initially being treated.