Stockton Fire Chief Erik Newman, 53, left, was set to begin a new job as deputy director at the San Francisco Department of Emergency Management. (Courtesy Stockton Fire Department)

Man tapped to lead SF emergency department arrested in Stockton for spousal abuse

San Francisco’s newest top emergency official was arrested in Stockton, CA on suspicion of felony spousal abuse Thursday.

Stockton Fire Chief Erik Newman, 53, was set to retire July 1 and was slated to join the San Francisco Department of Emergency Management as its deputy director, this columnist was told previously.

That would put him second-in-command of emergency management during San Francisco’s next earthquake, fire, major power outage or heat wave.

It is unclear as of yet what effect — if any — Newman’s arrest will have on his future job prospects in San Francisco.

So far, The Mayor’s Office and the Department of Emergency Management have remained mum on his employment status.

“We are aware of the arrest of Stockton Fire Chief Erik Newman,” wrote Department of Emergency Management spokesperson Francis Zamora, in a statement. “Mr. Newman received an offer of employment with the San Francisco Department of Emergency Management. We will reserve comment until more information is available.”

Stockton’s city manager placed Newman on administrative leave, according to the Turlock Police Department.

Multiple news outlets reported the arrest. The victim is apparently someone who used to live with Newman in Turlock, CA, the Sacramento Bee reported Thursday.

Police arrested Newman at Stockton City Hall, according to the Turlock Police Department. He was booked into Stanislaus County Jail on suspicion of felony spousal abuse with bail set at $50,000, but as of shortly before 11 p.m. he no longer appeared to be in custody, based on jail records.

If charged, Newman could face a sentence up to four years for a first-time offense, according to California penal code.

“This has come as a surprise to our membership,” tweeted the Stockton Firefighters Local 456 Thursday.

Newman served as chief of the department for four years, they added.

Newman was set to replace outgoing deputy director Mike Dayton, who was quietly shown the door in late February following an investigation by the San Francisco Examiner in 2017 that revealed he racked up myriad absences during San Francisco emergencies, including a heatwave.

As for Newman, he was among the three finalists sent to Mayor London Breed for consideration as San Francisco’s next fire chief. Ultimately, he lost out to Deputy Chief Jeanine Nicholson, who Breed swore in this May.

But Newman checked a lot of boxes for The Mayor’s Office, I’m told. In addition to his fire experience and strong professional reputation, he’s got local cred — a San Francisco native, Newman attended Archbishop Riordan High School and was named Most Valuable Player for the school’s basketball team in 1984 and 1985, according to school records.

In fact, I was even planning a profile of Newman, waiting only for the day when he would assume his post at the Department of Emergency Management.

San Francisco officials did not confirm when his official start date would be, or how far along in the hiring process he was.

However, my sources tell me he was close enough to starting his new San Francisco role that he had a wooden desk emblazoned with his name and former title, “CHIEF ERIK NEWMAN” on its side, the style of letters you’d see on the sign of a brew-pub, already shipped to the Department of Emergency Management at 1011 Turk St. It sits there even now. On its top, the desk has a stylized, drawn ribbon with “Stockton Fire Department” written on it.

It now appears that desk may remain empty a little longer than anyone expected.

On Guard prints the news and raises hell each week. Email Fitz at joe@sfexaminer.com, follow him on Twitter and Instagram @FitztheReporter, and Facebook at facebook.com/FitztheReporter.

This story has been corrected to reflect Newman as Riordan MVP 1984 and 1985, not 1983 and 1984.

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