S.F. let EMT work despite off-duty assault charges

A San Francisco Fire Department paramedic worked in the field for more than a year after he was charged with an off-duty sexual assault.

The felony sex assault charge was filed against firefighter-paramedic Timothy Gutierrez, 39, of Fairfield, in March 2006, but he remained a licensed emergency medical technician for more than a year after that. After going on voluntary leave from the San Francisco Fire Department in April, Gutierrez in May was charged with a separate, misdemeanor count of indecent exposure.

Gutierrez also had two separate restraining orders leveled against him alleging domestic violence abuse, both in 2006. All charges were filed in Solano County.

San Francisco fire Chief Joanne Hayes-White said the department has been “monitoring his conduct for about a year.” But she said, “this is all off-duty conduct. We’ve had no complaints of his on-duty conduct.”

A former federal firefighter, Gutierrez joined the San Francisco Fire Department in October 2004 after the department took over firefighting duties from the Navy at Hunters Point Shipyard.

Hayes-White said Friday that Gutierrez and three other firefighters who were working at Hunters Point were absorbed into the department after passing the department’s standard battery of aptitude tests.

While the San Francisco Fire Department runs a California driver’s license check, it does not run a criminal background check, Hayes-White said. That is the responsibility of the agency that issued the EMT license, a requirement for firefighter/paramedic work. Gutierrez was issued an EMT license in Solano County, Hayes-White said.

Last week, Gutierrez’s license was revoked, Hayes-White said. Michael Frenn, who heads the Solano County Office Emergency Services, which issued Gutierrez his license, was not available for comment Friday.

Because Gutierrez was being prosecuted outside the department for an incident that allegedly happened off-duty, Hayes-White said the department had no authority to remove him from duty. She said a separate, internal disciplinary investigation is ongoing, and that when Gutierrez returns from leave, he will be assigned to desk duty, pending the investigation.

“If these allegations are true, then they’re a huge concern to me. I would question anyone’s fitness for duty as a firefighter/EMT if he’s prone to these behaviors,” Hayes-White said. “What I think we’re doing is allowing him his due process but minimizing his potential for inappropriate behavior while he’s at work.”

Gutierrez was charged with a felony sexual assault on March 21, 2006, according to Solano County court records. He began his leave on April 24 of this year. He was charged with a misdemeanor for indecent exposure on May 14.

A call to Gutierrez’s lawyer, Denis Honeychurch, was not returned Friday afternoon.

amartin@examiner.com

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