TRENTON — A firefighter grazed in the arm by a stray bullet while working out in a firehouse gym believes his deceased older brother was looking out for him and saved him from a more serious injury.

Kevin Soto was using the elliptical on the second floor Tuesday night when he heard what sounded like fireworks going off outside the Engine 1 and Ladder 1 firehouse on Calhoun Street. He quickly realized it was gunfire and he needed to duck.

"Something inside of me said 'hey take cover. Duck.' As soon as I ducked the bullets started flying through the window. So then I went to reach for my radio I left on top of the elliptical and my phone so I could get out of there. As soon as I tried to get out of there the bullet grazed my arm," Soto told New Jersey 101.5. "All I felt was a burning sensation like a hot piece of metal singeing my skin."

Bullet holes in the kitchen of the firehouse and wall
Bullet holes in the kitchen of the firehouse and wall (Kevin Soto)
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'They were pretty big bullets'

He ran downstairs where his fellow firefighters also heard the shots and told them he'd been hit. They began checking him over for other possible hits.

"The bullets kept flying and we heard bullets go into the kitchen. A bullet went into the wall and into the refrigerator. There were multiple bullets on the second floor and the first-floor kitchen," Soto said. "They were pretty big bullets so it had to be a high-powered gun especially to go through walls like that. It was a scary situation."

Soto said that if he hadn't ducked when he did and stayed standing the bullet would have hit him in the head. He credits his decision to drive his brother's car to work for the first time since his death.

"I drove my brother's car to work that day and that day something told me to take cover without having even having any bullets flying into the firehouse yet. Me and my brother were close. I've never really believed in superstition but it's kind of weird that day the first time in my eight-year career I took my brother's car to work," Soto said.

Kevin Soto
Kevin Soto (Kevin Soto)
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'It was a traumatic experience'

Soto said that he was taken to a hospital and was released several hours later. He is currently off the job and will be undergoing some physical therapy and counseling.

"It was a traumatic experience. In beginning, I didn't think nothing of it but now you sit around the house and start telling the story and you go back to sleep you start reliving the situation.  And it's so fresh right now when you go to sleep and I wake up I'm like 'oh my God what's going on?' I wake up scared but I'm OK now for the most part," Soto said.

Firefighters already wear vests on every call because of the varied situations they are entering on calls like shootings, EMS calls, domestic violence cases and anything else police may respond to. There have also been cases in other cities where firefighters have been shot on routine fire calls.

"It's very unfortunate that we have to wear bulletproof vests for our own safety. I personally don't like to do it because I feel it shows the public fear. But nowadays you have to wear it for everything," Soto said.

City spokesman Timothy Carroll said there have been no arrests as of Thursday morning in the case.

There were 40 homicides in Trenton in 2021, the vast majority from shootings, according to an unofficial count by MidJersey.news.  All seven homicides in Trenton in 2022 were from shootings.

Bullet hole in the window of a Trenton firehouse
Bullet hole in the window of a Trenton firehouse (Kevin Soto)
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Dan Alexander is a reporter for New Jersey 101.5. You can reach him at dan.alexander@townsquaremedia.com

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