SFFD looks into alleged station house violence

An allegedly violent incident between two on-duty San Francisco firefighters in a station house left one of the men with a broken jaw, sources say, but an investigation into the incident was delayed for 25 days.

Multiple Fire Department sources said two firefighters got into an argument while on duty in Station 32 in the Bernal Heightsneighborhood on May 20.

The altercation turned physical, and when it was over, firefighter Bela Carreira had allegedly knocked firefighter Joel Soto unconscious on the floor, the sources said.

Soto reportedly suffered a broken jaw, broken nose and a gash on his face. The injuries were allegedly first reported to the department’s administration as having resulted from a fall, according to sources.

Fire Chief Joanne Hayes-White would not confirm or deny the events of May 20 because of an ongoing investigation but said, “I can confirm that there are allegations surrounding an event on May 20. The chief’s office getting notified on June 15 is cause for concern because of the delay. That’s an integral part of the investigation.”

Reached by telephone at his home, Carreira referred all requests for comment to the union.

San Francisco Firefighters Association President John Hanley said some of the firefighters involved in the incident have asked for representation, and that the union would avoid a conflict of interest by assigning separate officials to represent the individuals involved.

This incident is the latest to cast the department’s discipline in a negative light. In 2003 a female firefighter alleged that on-the-job drinking led to harassment. In 2005, then-Deputy Chief Fred Sanchez allegedly allowed a drunken firefighter to drive a department staff car to a station house where he went on duty.

No one involved in the May 20 incident has made a claim against The City, City Attorney’s Office spokesman Matt Dorsey said. He said they have up to six months to do so.

Another departmental investigation is currently under way regarding an assault complaint filed against an assistant chief, according to Hayes-White.

Lt. Joe King claims that he was grabbed and shaken by Assistant Chief Jim Barden at the scene of a June 6 service call, according toSan Francisco Black Firefighters Association President Kevin Smith.

King, a member of the San Francisco Black Firefighters Association, filed a criminal complaint against Barden on June 12, according to the Police Department, and reportedly filed an administrative complaint Tuesday, according to Smith.

Smith alleged Tuesday that investigations into violence in the department are carried out inconsistently. “Some people get off, others don’t; some people are written up for investigation while for others, heads are turned the other way,” he said.

Hayes-White, however, maintained that she and her staff fully investigate every allegation. “I’m the first one to praise really good work,” she said, “but I’m consistent and firm in terms of discipline.”

amartin@examiner.com

Bay Area NewsLocal

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