‘Miracle boy’ charged with shooting firefighter from Paso Robles

Jacob Kirkendall

A Santa Cruz man whose life was saved by a firefighter and who once dreamed of himself becoming a fireman has been identified as the gunman who shot and wounded a firefighter from Paso Robles on Monday, before leading authorities on a wild chase through Fort Hunter Liggett in southern Monterey County. [KSBW]

On Monday, Jacob Kirkendall, 25, fired shots into the marked vehicle of Peter Harris, a U.S. Forest Service division fire chief from Paso Robles, who was returning from battling a wildfire near Big Sur. Harris suffered a gunshot wound in his neck and is expected to survive.

After being wounded on Nacimento-Fegusson Road , Harris managed to give 911 dispatchers a description of the gunman, as well as his red pickup truck.

At about 5:30 p.m., CHP officers began pursuing Kirkendall through Fort Hunter Liggett. During the chase, Kirkendall flipped off deputies and attempted to go “head-on into cop cars,” according to scanner traffic.

Deputies brought Kirkendall’s vehicle to a halt by conducting a pit maneuver. They then shot out the gunman’s driver’s side window. One deputy was heard on the scanner saying “shots fired.”

But Kirkendall managed to speed off, and officers lost track of him. About 40 minutes later, authorities tracked him down, and Kirkendall eventually surrendered.

Kirkendall does not have an apparent criminal history, and the motive for the shooting is unclear.

In 2009, Kirkendall survived electrocution after live power lines fell at Rio del Mar Beach. The then-17-year-old high school student was trying to snuff out a small brush fire ignited by the fallen lines when he was shocked.

A firefighter arrived and pulled Kirkendall off the live wires. Kirkendall spent 10 weeks in a coma and nearly died from his burns while in intensive care.

Kirkendall’s parents chronicled his recovery in a blog called Journey Through Fire, and the community rallied around him. The then-teen received the nickname “miracle boy.”

At the time of the accident, Kirkendall dreamed of becoming a firefighter. The year following his electrocution, Kirkendall began studying fire science at Cabrillo College, his family’s blog stated.

Aptos/La Selva Fire Capt. Greg Hansen, the firefighter who is credited with saving Kirkendall’s life, spoke to KSBW following Monday’s incident.

Hansen said he has kept in touch with Kirkendall, and they had coffee together about six months ago. At that time, nothing seemed wrong or out of the ordinary, Hansen said.

“It’s sad. We have a connection. When you save someone’s life, you will always have a connection,” Hansen said.

Kirkendall is now in Monterey County Jail on charges of attempted murder, assault with a deadly weapon and firing into an unoccupied vehicle. His bail is set at $1.2 million.

Doctors released Harris from the hospital. The fire chief reportedly returned home Tuesday evening.