WAUSAU, WI (WAOW/CNN) - A city is in disbelief after an area firefighter and paramedic is charged with sexual assault while on the job.
Clifford Heiser, 33, faces three charges of sexual assault, accused of inappropriately touching a female patient in the back of an ambulance earlier this month. He resigned from the department Tuesday morning.
Many see paramedics as people who are there to help, but after this revelation, the trust in those hired to help the community is wavering.
"Many are angry, frustrated. There's no question this will be a difficult, strenuous time and is a low point of our organization," Wausau Fire Chief Tracy Kujuwa said.
"I think our department is taken aback by this particular situation, and the wide range of emotions our department is feeling right now I can't even describe or explain," she said.
It was Sept. 12 that Heiser responded to a medical call, and a 29-year-old female was put in the back of the ambulance. The woman says Heiser bit her breast and touched her inappropriately.
"I just wanted to acknowledge in this case the victim here and the courage and strength it took for her to come forward," Deputy Chief Ben Bliven said.
"Nobody is above that law, and that includes city officials or city employees," Wausau Mayor Robert Mielke said.
The Wisconsin Crime Lab confirmed that Heiser's saliva was found on the woman's breast.
"We as a department are very humbled today," Kujuwa said. "There's no department or organization that believes that this type of accusation would ever be brought against one of their members."
The allegations and charges are taking a toll on members of fire services.
"There's a wide range of emotions which have surfaced," Kujuwa said.
"They feel betrayed as the community probably does," Bliven said.
After the charges, changes will be coming in hopes of restoring trust and protecting the public.
"I think what we're looking at is basically putting cameras in the back of the ambulances," Kujuwa said. "This is a highly unusual circumstance, and it's unfortunate that our department is having to move through this and our community has to move through this."
Officials say the staff at the fire department is filled with people who want to help the community, and that the actions of one person does not reflect the rest.
No future court dates have been set for Heiser.
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