Balchunas, 55, is a full-time patrol officer. The former Fairfax County emergency medical technician is also one of two medics who serve on the county’s part-time elite SWAT unit.
“With the training that I have and with the right equipment at my disposal,” he said, “I was in the right place at the right time.”
Police Chief Stephan M. Hudson recently recognized Balchunas for his efforts that day. In an interview, Balchunas reflected on the experience. He also deflected some of the praise by pointing out that several people — emergency technicians, emergency room doctors and other officers at the scene — helped save the victim’s life.
“These are some of the best I’ve ever worked with,” he said of his fellow officers.
About 8 p.m. Jan. 28, Balchunas was patrolling near Cardinal Drive in Woodbridge when a shots-fired call went out. He and other officers rushed to the scene in the 16000 block of Radburn Street in Woodbridge.
When Balchunas arrived, he found that another officer had subdued a suspect on a nearby street. The man told officers that he had shot his son and that he left the gun in a hallway in the house, Balchunas said.
Approaching the house with other officers, Balchunas saw a sizeable police unit prepared to enter. He also saw the victim bleeding in the driveway. Because other officers were on the scene, he felt comfortable retrieving his medical supplies and helping the man, Balchunas said. The victim’s name has not been released.
The man had been shot four times: in his upper chest, left arm, thigh and buttocks. Balchunas said he was most concerned about the chest injury.
“You never know where the bullet is going to roll,” he said.
Later, Balchunas learned that the victim had a collapsed lung and that the bullet had nicked his heart.
Balchunas put a compression dressing on the wound; Hudson said doctors and emergency medical technicians said that saved the man’s life. The man has been released from the hospital and is recovering.
“It was particularly fortunate that [Balchunas] was working that day and he was nearby to be able to respond to that situation,” Hudson said.
Balchunas also credited other good decisions along the way: the EMTs who decided not to wait for a helicopter and the ER doctor who drained blood from the patient’s heart.
Police have charged Eric N. Hummer, 56, in the incident. He is scheduled for trial in March.
Balchunas was a Fairfax County EMT for 14 years before leaving in 1998. He was called back into public service after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.
“I saw them climbing on the Pentagon, and I felt kind of lost,” he said.
He completed training and joined the Prince William force in 2004.