It’s been a bad month for the Brookline Fire Department, with two firefighters hauled into court and charged with crimes during the last few weeks. The Boston Globe reported the Brookline Board of Selectmen responded on Tuesday by firing both men.
Assault and Battery with a Dangerous Weapon
According to media reports, Joseph Ward, 37, was arrested and charged with one count of assault and battery with a dangerous weapon and a second count of assault and battery after allegedly beating up a 53-year-old homeless man at Anna’s Taqueria on Harvard Street in Brookline. The victim reported to the police that he was ordering from the restaurant when the defendant told him to hurry up. After the victim got his food, he went outside and the defendant followed him. An independent witness told the police that the defendant insulted the victim and pushed him. After the victim fell on the ground, the defendant threw food and a bottle at him before punching him between five and seven times. The witness told the police he was worried the defendant was going to kill the victim. The victim was transported to a Boston hospital to treat a cut on his face.
Police caught up to the defendant nearby. He acknowledged that he asked the victim to hurry up, but said the victim challenged him to a fight after he received his food. The defendant denied throwing a bottle at the victim. Surveillance video appeared to have captured the fight between the men.
Operating Under the Influence of Alcohol
Just one night earlier, Jeremy Joseph, 34, was allegedly driving under the influence of alcohol when he was involved in a crash on Corey Street in Newton. It was reported to the police that the defendant was attempting to flee the scene and allegedly struck a second vehicle on Lagrange Street. The second crash was serious enough that the fire department had to use hydraulic tools to extract the victim from his car. The defendant was transported to a Boston hospital for non-life-threatening injuries.
While the Board of Selectmen said firing the two men was a difficult decision, it concluded that their alleged criminal actions were “egregious” and warranted their termination. Further, according to the Board, the firefighters had damaged the reputation of the fire department and the town by their conduct.
The union quickly fired back at the town, accusing the Board of firing the men before even attempting to investigate what had happened. The union pledged to appeal the firings. Both men are due back in court next month for their criminal cases.
While it may have made sense to suspend the defendants while their cases were pending, it seems harsh that the Board terminated them before the criminal charges were resolved. What will happen if it turns out the allegations are not true? And, as the union pointed out, it doesn’t appear that the Board would have had time to independently investigate the allegations, which means it was relying solely on the the version of facts as presented by the police department.