EL SOBRANTE -- As paramedics waited several minutes for sheriff's deputies to secure the scene on Aug. 4 where a man lay bleeding a few paces away, bystanders prodded them to help.
"Folks were saying the scene was secure," said Jason Sampson, an operations manager for American Medical Response (AMR). "But dispatch said no.
"We had a stressed paramedic," Sampson added, saying the first responders were hearing mixed signals from dispatch and residents at the scene.
More than 60 concerned residents gathered for a special meeting Wednesday to hear emergency responders and other public officials explain what happened in the aftermath of a shocking stabbing death of an employee at a local hardware store on Aug. 4.
Daymond Agnew was arrested on suspicion of murder after stabbing to death an employee at Oliver's Ace Hardware on San Pablo Dam Road. Police allege Agnew stabbed Daniel Joseph Stone, 49, at least 17 times.
Many residents expressed skepticism about officials' explanations about why at least five minutes elapsed between paramedics arriving on the scene and applying emergency care.
Contra Costa sheriff's Lt. Jon Moreland said deputies arrived at 9:03 a.m., three minutes after 911 calls, and came upon Stone at 9:07 a.m., then told dispatch to clear fire personnel at 9:09 a.m. AMR medics got clearance from dispatch at 9:12 a.m. Deputies arrested Agnew outside a nearby house at 9:12 a.m.
Between 9:03 and 9:07 a.m. the deputies scrambled in search of the suspect after being told by witnesses that he was hiding under a nearby bridge. Some residents complained that deputies didn't exit their vehicles when they first arrived near where Stone laid dying.
"The whole area was unsafe," Moreland said. Moreland added that a supervising Sergeant instructed a deputy to respond to the victim at 9:04.
Moreland and other officials said it is standard practice for deputies to secure a crime scene before giving the green light to unarmed medical personnel to administer aid.
Some residents at the meeting were ¿not convinced.
Lawrence Gurganitus, a resident and frequent shopper at the hardware store, said he rushed to Stone's aid. Gurganitus said there was no sign of the assailant, and he implored paramedics to help Stone.
"It seemed like forever," Gurganitus said. "I yelled to come over and help, but they said to calm down."
The violent scene in this rural hillside community is the latest instance of controversy over emergency response times and protocol. In April 2012, leaders from the same agencies went to public meetings to tamp down outrage over the drive-by shooting death of Lonnie Peterson III in North Richmond. The 22-year-old bled for several minutes outside a corner market while paramedics staged in the street and deputies tried to quell a hostile crowd.
In May 2011, Police and firefighters watched from the shore of Robert Crown Memorial State Beach in Alameda as 52-year-old Raymond Zack stood neck-deep in 54-degree water for 31 minutes until a civilian bystander retrieved his motionless body. Zack, who was suicidal, died.
Agnew, a 34-year-old Sacramento man, was arraigned Aug. 6 on charges of murder with use of a knife in the death of Stone. He is expected to enter a plea Sept. 3. According to witnesses, and surveillance video, Agnew walked up to Stone and a customer, then used spray paint from the store to color his face in Oakland Raiders' silver and black before stabbing Stone. Prosecutors say Agnew explained later that he was on a "mission from Allah to help people."
Residents also questioned why Stone was taken to John Muir Medical Center in Walnut Creek rather than the closer Highland General Hospital in Oakland.
Contra Costa Emergency Medical Services medical director Dr. Joe Barger said the decision was made by personnel at the scene. Foggy conditions that day prevented Stone from being flown to the hospital. The ambulance ride took 21 minutes and arrival time was 9:42 a.m., Barger said. Doctors Medical Center in San Pablo is just a few miles away, but Barger said John Muir Medical Center is a designated trauma center equipped to handle life-threatening injuries.
Stone was pronounced dead at 11:26 a.m.
Barger said "It's very hard to know" whether Stone could have survived if he received treatment earlier.