Alleged violent incident in station house now goes before Fire Commission
San Francisco Fire Chief Joanne Hayes-White is calling for the termination of a firefighter who allegedly beat another firefighter while the two were on duty.
Hayes-White said on Friday she had filed charges with the Fire Commission recommending that Bela Carreira, a five-year department veteran, be terminated for allegedly beating Joel Soto on May 20, then trying to cover it up. The department's administration learned of the incident June 15.
Hayes-White also filed charges recommending a 90-day suspension for acting Lt. Tom Masterson, a 27-year veteran who was in charge of Station 32 in Bernal Heights on May 20, for initially reporting the injuries as having resulted from a fall. Masterson retired on June 28, five days after Hayes-White filed the charges.
In addition to Carreira and Masterson, Hayes-White said she will hand down disciplinary charges against three other department members who were on duty at Station 32 the night of May 20, when what she described as "heated verbal exchanges" between Carreira and Soto escalated into a fight that seriously injured first-year firefighter Soto.
Hayes-White said Soto's injuries consist of facial fractures and include injuries to his cheek, a contusion to the back of his head, swelling in both ears and one or more cuts around his mouth that required stitches. Soto has been with the departmentsince September, and is in his year-long probationary period. He is on medical leave due to his injuries but will return to work when he is able, she said.
When word of the incident got to Capt. John Forbes, who normally heads Station 32, he reported it up the chain of command June 15, Hayes-White said.
When it meets on Thursday, the Fire Commission will acknowledge the charges against Masterson and Carreira. Commission president Paul Conroy said the commission would not pursue any action against Masterson because they have no jurisdiction over him now that he's retired. "We could, if we wanted, investigate the matter, but I think the story will come out in the hearing for Mr. Carreira," Conroy said.
San Francisco Firefighters Association president John Hanley said Friday that an elected member of the union's executive board will represent Carreira in his hearing before the Fire Commission. The City Attorney's office will represent the Fire Department, Conroy said.
Hayes-White said the six department members who had been at the station the night of May 20 cooperated in the investigation. "They were very remorseful that they didn't do the right thing and report it appropriately," she said. "People make mistakes, they move on from their mistakes, but I want to let people know that this type of behavior is unacceptable"