Jorge Castaneda sentenced to 6 months in jail for attack on Chicago paramedic Julie Burke

Jorge Castaneda was sentenced to jail time for attacking a paramedic, and his sentence is being seen as a real victory for all first responders.
January 8, 2014 3:28:19 PM PST
It's a felony to attack a paramedic, yet many first responders say the threat of being injured by someone they are trying to help is real.

A man has been sentenced to jail time for attacking a paramedic, and his sentence is being seen as a real victory for all first responders.

On Tuesday, a Cook County judge sentenced a man to six months in jail. While it's not a great deal of time, for the paramedic he attacked and other victims, it is at least time.

The cases against Chicago Fire Department paramedics have increased in recent years and many result in light sentences.

Julie Burke has been working as a Chicago paramedic for years, yet nothing prepared her for a call she got in the Logan Square neighborhood a year and half ago.

"We arrived on the scene, we saw an individual that was laying face up on the parkway of the street," said Burke.

The individual was an intoxicated Jorge Castaneda. The 911 call was not made by him, but a concerned citizen. As Burke and her partner tried to help him, Castaneda kicked Burke in the face twice.

"There was nothing that was fractured. There was swelling around the nose and check, there were headaches for 4 days," said Burke.

The attack against Burke is one of many that paramedics have endured in recent years. While it is a felony to assault a first responder, many of the cases have been pleaded down to misdemeanors, which the firefighters union says has resulted in sentences without jail time. But, yesterday was different. Jorge Castaneda was sentenced to six months in jail.

"We hope it sets a precedent for other judges down the road to make sure this doesn't happen and if it does that people are punished properly," said Tom Ryan, Chicago Firefighters Union Local 2.

Paramedics Michele Martinez and Margaret Heckmann say it's about time a judge handed down a stiff sentence.

"I'm so happy that this guy is doing time. We are all out there doing what we need to do: be paramedics, not punching bags," said Martinez.

Over two years ago, Martinez was choked and partner Heckmann was bitten by an drunk suburban man in the River North neighborhood. The man who attacked them walked away with a sentence of supervision and community service.

Julie Burke hopes jail time for her attacker is just the beginning.

"We don't have guns, tasers or handcuffs. We have our medical equipment and our unfailing commitment to aid strangers," said Burke.

The attacks against first responders are not unique to female paramedics. Many males are subject to violence as well. The fire union says it will continue to pursue all cases in the court system.

Julie Burke, Michele Martinez and Margaret Heckman hope the next sentence to be handed down will be even longer than six months.