Paramedic arrested for sexually assaulting teen during emergency call

Family defends paramedic accused of fondling teen in ambulance

MEMPHIS, TN (WMC) - A member of the Memphis Fire Department who was operating as a paramedic is in jail, accused of sexually assaulting an underage patient in his care.

On Jan. 8, investigators say Joseph Hartsfield inappropriately touched a 17-year-old girl while she was in an ambulance on the way to St. Francis Hospital.

The teen told police that Hartsfield started asking her sexually explicit questions and moved his hand up her shirt feeling under her breast.

"It's just shocking," Ruth Tower said. "It's just shocking to me."

Tower lives in the same neighborhood as Hartsfield. She and the rest of the neighborhood say they can't believe one of their neighbors would do something like this to a minor.

"Just to think that we had somebody like that in our neighborhood," Tower said. "There's kids all around here the entire day. Just--I can't even imagine."'

Despite the shocking allegations against Hartsfield, his sister is standing up for him.

"There are plenty of people in this city who love and support him," said Hartsfield's sister. "We're going to stand in his corner."

Hartsfield's sister believes he'll be back to saving lives on board an ambulance in no time.

"When the truth is revealed, I hope you reveal that as well so the truth can be told," she said.

One fellow paramedic doubts the charges against Hartsfield and says contact with the chest may be common, like when attaching EKG monitors.

"It depends on the situation," he explained. "If you have a large busted woman or a bigger girl, you have to lift the breast up to stick it in the appropriate spot."

Memphis Fire Department confirms Hartsfield started working for them in 2008. As soon as he is released from jail, Hartsfield is required to report directly to his supervisor.

MFD says it will conduct a full investigation into what happened.

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