By Alex Dobuzinskis
LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - An off-duty fire captain credited with saving a man who cut his own arms down to the bone with saws at a Los Angeles-area Home Depot store said on Thursday he initially thought he had come upon a murder scene.
The man, whose has not been identified by authorities, was listed in critical condition at a hospital after his self-mutilation on Wednesday at the store in West Covina.
Police have said that Art Hurtado, a captain with the Pasadena Fire Department, helped to save the man's life.
Hurtado said he happened to be at the store and saw a lot of blood when he walked up to the man. He fashioned tourniquets from pieces of rope and towels.
"He was face-down. I thought it was a crime scene with a fatality, that's how it seemed," Hurtado told reporters gathered at a Pasadena fire station. He said the man had cut himself below the biceps.
"There was a pulse, a very faint pulse and he was barely breathing," Hurtado recalled.
West Covina police spokesman Corporal Rudy Lopez said Hurtado worked with a police officer who responded to an emergency call to apply the tourniquets.
"I don't believe that he would have survived had it not been for the timing and the grace of having (an off-duty) paramedic there who offered the right kind of advice in saving this man," Lopez said.
The man had acted like any other customer when he walked into the Home Depot, until he grabbed several handsaws and began cutting into his upper limbs, reaching the bone, Lopez said.
Police said it appeared that he had used at least three saws including one designed to cut drywall.
"The amount of pain that someone has to go through to continue to use the saw on yourself, to me I just can't fathom that," Lopez said.
West Covina fire paramedics arrived three minutes after receiving the emergency call, the city's Fire Chief Rick Genovese said, and they took the man to Queen of the Valley Hospital.
The man survived surgery and it appears doctors were able to save his arms, Lopez said. Police said they have spoken with the man's family and are trying to determine what caused him to hurt himself.
(Additional reporting by David McNew in Pasadena; Editing by Scott Malone, Cynthia Osterman and Dan Whitcomb)
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