He should’ve brought gloves. If Joe Lamusta had known he’d spend a half-hour trudging through two feet of snow during the height of a blizzard, maybe he would have thrown on more than just a jacket before heading to Boston College for his 16-hour shift. He should’ve brought gloves, but he didn’t think about it, so when he got a call that someone had run out onto Shea Field during winter storm Nemo, he hustled out to help offering two completely bare hands.
The snow wasn’t anything out of the ordinary when Lamusta, 26, arrived at work on the morning of Feb. 8. He had joined the BCPD in June of 2010 and was finishing a master’s degree in administrative studies in the Woods College of Advancing Studies. He had never experienced something like this night.
At around 11 p.m., nearing the end of his shift, Lamusta was called out to Shea Field with his partner, Sara Fantasia. Someone thought they had seen a man run out onto the Chestnut Hill Reservoir. When Lamusta and Fantasia arrived, they were told that the man had actually hopped the fence onto Shea Field. Members of the Boston Fire Department and Boston EMS were trying to see out onto the field using flashlights, but the snow was knee-high and still pouring down. It was impossible to find anyone from that distance.
So Lamusta and Fantasia both hopped the five-foot fence and went looking. Lamusta headed toward the softball dugout near Beacon Street and Fantasia went the other way. At the lowest, the snow was knee-deep, and in some spots it went up to their hips. Lamusta couldn’t see more than 20 yards in any direction. He pushed his way through the snow for 10 minutes until he got to the nearest dugout.
A young man, later identified as a Northeastern University student, was sitting on the bench wearing nothing but shorts, surrounded by a foot of snow. He didn’t even have on shoes. His skin was white and blotchy and parts of his hands were turning purple, beginning to show signs of hypothermia. He was shaking, but he didn’t want any help.
“He just wanted to stay and hang out in the snow,” Lamusta said. “I’m not sure why. I was kind of in shock and awe that somebody would take this risk of their life, essentially, and putting us in danger also.”
Lamusta told him no. He said that he had to come with him.
“Just leave me here, bro,” the student replied.
After putting in a radio call to Fantasia reporting where he was and requesting help, Lamusta reached to grab the young man’s arm and help him up. He pushed away, so Lamusta threw the man’s 5-foot-10, 190 pound frame over his shoulder in a fireman’s carry, with legs dangling on Lamusta’s right and arms hanging on his left, and started heading back to the street. He couldn’t see St. Thomas More Road, though, or any of the fire engines on the other side.
To make things worse, the young man began to fight Lamusta. He reached for the ammo, radio, and baton on Lamusta’s belt and then attempted to hold Lamusta in a headlock.
“We just kept trying to tell him that we’re just trying to help him, but he wasn’t really getting it,” Lamusta said.
“It’s never a good thing when you’re trying to help somebody and they start putting you in a headlock,” he said with a laugh.
Fantasia walked with Lamusta, grabbing hold of the young man’s hands to hold off the beating and make the walk more bearable. Lamusta grew slightly frustrated, but he focused on what he would want someone to do if a person he cared about needed help.
“I try to put that into perspective,” he said. “I don’t take it personally. You’ve just got to roll with the punches and do your job.”
Lamusta and Fantasia finally reached the fence, hands blistered from the frostbite and their dexterity fading because of the conditions. As they tried to pass the student over the fence to help on the other side, they had trouble trying to grip their hands, and were still being punched and kicked at the same time. Finally, the young man made it over the fence and was sent to St. Elizabeth’s.
Fantasia, who recently left the BCPD, and Lamusta received the Robert Bunker Award for outstanding service by performing an act that risks personal life or safety from the Northeast College and Universities Security Association last week.
“I had never won an award like this before, so I thought it was pretty cool,” Lamusta said. “I had just recently graduated from BC as a graduate student this past spring, so I thought it was a nice little touch to graduating.
“I think receiving awards isn’t so much for the person who receives it but for the department, because then it inspires others to continue to work hard.”
Published: Thursday, July 11, 2013