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Fire Dept. Union Outraged Over 'Low Bail' for Man Accused of Attacking EMTs

By  Erin Meyer and Emily Morris | December 4, 2013 9:13am | Updated on December 4, 2013 3:04pm

			 "Drunk is not an excuse," said the president of the fire fighters union after an incident in River North. 
Fire Dept. Union Outraged Over 'Low Bail' For Man Accused of Attacking EMTs
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RIVER NORTH — Chicago Fire Department union officials are calling a River North attack on two paramedics doubly tragic.

First, the man the paramedics were trying to help turned on them, leaving one with a serious head injury, an official said. Then a Cook County judge, the union officials charge, let the alleged attacker off too easily with a $150,000 bail.

Tom Ryan, president of the Fire Fighters Union Local 2, criticized the judge for setting "low bond."

"I think there should be no bond," he said. "This is insanity. We are called to help."

Attacks on paramedics are far too common, and the justice system is failing to hold perpetrators accountable, Ryan said.

"There seems to be no respect for authority," he said. "Drunk is not an excuse."

Joseph Zajac, 28, of Hobart, Ind., was arrested after he attacked two paramedics and a police officer in River North Tuesday night, leaving one temporarily unconscious after she hit her head on a railing, police said.

Witnesses saw Zajac stumbling in the 300 block of North LaSalle Street sometime before 7:15 p.m., police said. They called 911 and told dispatchers that Zajac needed medical help and was very drunk.

But after police and paramedics arrived, Zajac went into fight mode and began attacking them, police said.

It was like someone "flipped a switch," said Jeff Larsen, Fire Department assistant deputy paramedic. One minute, the paramedics were preparing to lift Zajac onto a stretcher, the next he was swinging, Larsen said.

Cook County Assistant State's Attorney Erin Antonietti said Zajac punched the police officer and turned on the two paramedics. When he struck a female paramedic, she fell and hit her head causing a concussion, she said.

That paramedic, along with a male paramedic and a female officer were taken to Northwestern Memorial Hospital and treated for minor injuries, said Officer Janel Sedevic, a Chicago Police Department spokeswoman.

Zajac, his face bloodied, appeared briefly in court Wednesday, facing three felony counts of aggravated battery to a police officer or protected employee and one misdemeanor count of resisting a police officer.

Cook County Judge Laura Sullivan ordered Zajac held on $150,000 bail.