An emergency worker in Florida was arrested this week in connection with the theft of doses of the coronavirus vaccine, just 12 days after being recognized as the county’s “paramedic of the year,” authorities said Tuesday.
Paramedic Joshua Colon, 31, was responsible for administering vaccine doses to Polk County firefighters, County Sheriff Grady Judd told a news conference.
But earlier this month, Colon was unable to explain three of the Moderna vaccine doses, which authorities said were initially rejected. When pressed by a battalion commander for missing doses, Mr Colon tampered with vaccine testing and consent forms with two fake names and the name of a retired firefighter, Sheriff Judd said.
The missing doses were illegally removed from a refrigerator by one of Mr. Colon’s supervisors, a fire captain, who told Mr. Colon to leave for his break, according to the sheriff. The fire captain, who is expected to face criminal charges in the vaccine theft, previously asked Colon if he could help him get the vaccine for his mother, authorities said.
Sheriff Judd said his office, which arrested Mr Colon on Monday, takes the sacred trust of rescue workers very seriously. Mr. Colon resigned the day of his arrest, authorities said.
“We have a question for them,” Sheriff Judd said. “What were you thinking? Did you only have three brain cells?
David Carmichael, lawyer for Colon, did not immediately respond to requests for comment on Tuesday evening. But he told the Tampa Bay Times that Mr. Colon initially tried to bring the theft to the attention of the Polk County Fire Chief, but the chief was out of town. It was then that he tried to cover up a theft, Mr Carmichael told the newspaper.
“Sir. Colon deeply regrets his weakness for not alerting the chain of command to the theft of the vaccine, accepts responsibility for his mistake in covering up the theft and, in an effort to protect his agency’s reputation, has resigned his post. “Carmichael said in an email to the newspaper.
According to the sheriff’s office, Colon has been charged with 16 criminal counts, including forgery, falsification of medical records, official misconduct and creation of a fictitious ID.
“Josh Colon was a trusted employee,” Polk County Fire Chief Robert Weech said at the press conference. “I do not consider that it has any character for him. He made serious mistakes.
Officials could not say whether Mr. Colon had been pressured by his supervisor to cover up the theft.
“It doesn’t seem to me that he benefited from it at all,” said Chief Weech.
The chief noted that Colon was honored on Jan. 13 by a group of civic organizations as the ‘Paramedic of the Year’ for 2019 and 2020, and for his response to a serious multiple-vehicle crash on a local highway. . Polk County is located in central Florida, between Tampa and Orlando.
On its Facebook page, Polk County Fire Rescue posted photos during a plaque presentation for the honor.
“It’s a matter of public trust,” Chief Weech said on Tuesday. “We take this seriously.”