Charlotte bilingual firefighter honored for deescalating act of suicide

A Charlotte firefighter was one of several recognized for exceptional service as a member of the Charlotte Fire Department.

In February, Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department officers responded to a call  in reference to a suicidal subject. The Charlotte Fire Department dispatched Engine 42 and met CMPD on scene.

One of the crew on the fire department’s team was Fernando Rojas.

Rojas walked into the home and noticed the subject’s wife was visibly upset.

“There was a language barrier, so I was able to translate in Spanish,” Rojas said. “I was talking to the wife saying, ‘what’s going on?’ she just said that her husband’s not acting correctly.”

She only spoke Spanish, so she communicated with Rojas, stating that the subject had contemplated suicide within the last three months and that he was upstairs in the bedroom and had talked about hurting himself.

Firefighter Rojas translated this to the police officers and they walked up to the bedroom.

Rojas spoke to the subject, in Spanish, and asked him how he was doing and what was going on.

The subject stood up and Rojas observed a machete in the pockets of the subject’s sweatshirt. Rojas alerted the officers and officers got between Rojas and the subject.

Rojas worked to de-escalate the situation.

“There’s a huge need in our area for other Spanish-speaking personnel in areas around the city,” Rojas said. “The fire department is doing an outreach program so we’re able to communicate with the community and also start trying to recruit the right personnel.”

The subject reached for the machete and was tasered by officers.

According to the fire department, neither the subject nor any police or fire personnel were injured thanks to the efforts of Rojas to deescalate the situation.

He was detained and then transported to the hospital for mental evaluation.

For his extraordinary service, Rojas received the fire chief’s award for exemplary action.

“I’m proud of this award, but it should really be an award for my whole crew because I wouldn’t be here without them,” he said.

If you’re thinking about suicide, are worried about a friend or loved one, or would like emotional support, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline network is available 24/7 across the United States.

The Lifeline is available for everyone, is free, and confidential. National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-8255.

If you have an inspiring story, please contact Kevin Campbell, WSOC-TV/WAXN-TV/Telemundo Charlotte Public Affairs Manager, at Kevin.Campbell@wsoctv.com.

CLICK HERE FOR THE WSOC-TV LIST OF LOCAL MENTAL HEALTH RESOURCES ACROSS THE CAROLINAS