Fire crews in Maplewood, Mo responded to a vehicle fire on July 21, 2008. Lieutenant William Appel along with Firefighters Ryan Hummert, Timothy Wisely, Michael Chellis, and Andrew Neff responded to the call.
Upon arrival, they found a small pick-up truck covered in flames. The truck was parked in the driveway of a home. As Hummert and Wisely grabbed a hose and headed toward the truck there was a loud explosion.
Hummert collapsed to the ground and Wisely immediately began to treat him, realizing that Hummert had been shot in the head. Neff came over to help Wisely treat Hummert. None of the men knew where the shooter was.
Another shot rang out while they were waiting on the ambulance to arrive. Maplewood Police Officer Adam Fite was hit with this bullet. Neff went to administer medical attention but realized they were likely still in the line of fire.
Getting to Safety
Neff drug Officer Fite away from the open area to safety, waiting with him until the ambulance came. Sadly, Hummert’s injuries proved fatal but Wisely did not want to leave his side.
Lt. Appel and Chellis moved him to safety. Appel communicated with command while they awaited back up. St. Louis County Police Department tactical team came and removed the men in an armored vehicle.
The shooter, 52-year-old Mark J. Knobble, was discovered in his burned house the following day in his basement. Authorities believe he set the home on fire, then shot himself with a shotgun.
Officer Fite was on a ventilator but was eventually taken off and recovered. Sergeant Mike Martin, another officer who was shot, was released and assisted with the investigation.
Picking Up the Pieces
In a statement released by Maplewood’s Mayor James White, who happened to be police chief at the time of the incident, said Hummert was their youngest firefighter and he was the son of the former Mayor. The shooting and his death were felt deeply by the entire town.
White also said he never in his career had witnessed anything like what happened that day. He also thanked St. Louis County Police and fire for their support on the scene and the ensuing investigation.
The men received the Public Safety Officer Medal of Valor awarded to them in a ceremony with Vice President Joe Biden.