Slain firefighter laid to rest in home county
Ulmschneider also worked at local farmers markets
A funeral for a firefighter shot and killed last week in Prince George’s County was held Wednesday in St. Mary’s, where he lived and shared his expertise and encouragement with young people at a family produce stand. John “Skillet” Ulmschneider, 37, was employed as a firefighter and medic in Prince George’s. On Friday night, he and others responded to a 911 call to check on the welfare of a homeowner in Temple Hills. When Ulmschneider and other first responders determined that they needed to force their way into the residence, to find out if the homeowner was OK, the homeowner began firing gunshots that mortally wounded Ulmschneider and injured two other people, according to police and fire officials.
No charges have been filed against the homeowner, and a spokesperson for the Prince George’s County State’s Attorney’s Office confirmed Tuesday that grand jurors likely will be asked to review the matter.
Ulmschneider’s funeral at St. John Francis Regis Church in Hollywood was followed by a repast at the nearby Hollywood firehouse. Bill Mattingly, president of the Hollywood Volunteer Fire Department, said the department was contacted by the fire depart- ment in Prince George’s.
“They reached out,” Mattingly said, “and we’re going to help out any way we can.”
Ulmschneider, his wife and their 2-year-old daughter lived in a waterside neighborhood in the California area of St. Mary’s, and his wife’s parents own a produce farm near Leonardtown. On Saturdays, Ulmschneider sold the produce at two St. Mary’s farmers markets, including in front of the BAE Systems building in Lexington Park and more regularly at another venue, the Home Grown Farm Market along Route 235 in the Hermanville area.
“He was a mentor to many of the young vendors,” Donna Sasscer, the county’s agriculture manager, said Tuesday, adding that Ulmschneider also shared his knowledge as an emergency medical technician.
“He would talk to them about his job as an EMT. A couple of them were going through the EMT course,”
Sasscer said, and Ulmschneider encouraged her daughter in her plans to become a nurse.
Those skills were called into play in real-life situations, Sasscer said, when Ulmschneider and her daughter teamed up to check on the condition of a pregnant woman at the market, and repeatedly when he would handle “small minor medical emergencies.”
When a motor-vehicle collision occurred in the parking lot, she said, “He ran out there and made sure everybody was OK until our local ambulances and fire department got on the scene.”
And Ulmschneider’s skills weren’t limited to medical emergencies, Sasscer said. “If someone’s car broke down, he’d check it out.”
At 7:30 p.m. on Friday, according to the Prince George’s fire department, Ulmschneider responded with fire and rescue crews to check on the well-being of the Temple Hills resident. The occupant shot Ulmschneider, as well as a Morningside volunteer firefighter and a family member of the occupant, as they forced their way inside “after arriving on the scene, ... receiving no answer to knocks on the door, and fearing for the occupant’s welfare,” according to the fire department.
Ulmschneider, a 13-year veteran of the fire department who was normally assigned to a Landover Hills station, died at Southern Maryland Hospital Center, according to the fire department, and the Morningside volunteer firefighter is recovering in a hospital from multiple gunshot wounds. The third wounded man, identified by police as the occupant’s brother who made the initial call to 911, was treated at a hospital for a gunshot wound to his shoulder, the fire department reports, and two other volunteer firefighters were treated for lesser injuries they incurred “after the shootings, while seeking cover.”
The police department reports that its officers rushed to the scene and took the shooter into custody, who was later interviewed by detectives. The shooter’s name was not released by police or the fire department.
“He has been released from custody,” a police spokesperson said Monday morning, “and the investigation is continuing.” Prince George’s prosecutors are reviewing the case. “The police made the decision not to present anything to the [court] commissioner,” John Erzen, the communications director for the state’s attorney’s office, said Tuesday. “We would most likely be presenting evidence to the grand jury. We use the grand jury all the time as part of the investigative process, to allow them to do what they do, [including] to ask questions of witnesses. This case is not being treated differently than any other case.”
“It’s such a shock,” Sasscer said of learning of Ulmschneider’s death, when word reached the people working the next morning at the farmers market. “Last Saturday was a very sad day for us there.”