There had been rumors about an SF firefighter attacking another with a wrench last year, and now there’s a lawsuit from the alleged victim saying the SF Fire Department interfered with the criminal investigation, and took away the accuser's healthcare when he refused to drop the charges.
Last May, we got word of a bombshell exclusive from KGO that an off-duty SF firefighter broke a colleague’s arm in an intentional assault using a “hydrant spanner,” that is, the 15-inch wrenches used to turn fire hydrant faucets on and off. Felony assault charges (and others) were filed, the alleged assailant Robert Muhammad was arrested and checked into Santa Rita jail, posted $30,000 bail, and pleaded not guilty. Per doctors, the alleged victim Gabriel Shin “suffered a broken left arm, swollen right arm, and concussion as a result of the assault," according to a statement from Highland Hospital.
So certainly something happened. KGO reported last year that “within 48 hours of the attack, fire department brass urged Gabriel Shin to drop the charges.”
And Muhammed’s criminal case appears to be ongoing, as he does still have a criminal attorney retained. But now there’s a federal civil case too, as NBC Bay Area reports, with damning allegations that the SF Fire Department brass tried to sweep the incident under the rug.
The suit alleges that department chief Jeanine Nicholson “went to astonishing lengths to protect the attacker and to punish an innocent firefighter who was almost killed.” The suit adds the allegation that the department attempted “to interfere with a criminal investigation to cover up the violent crime perpetrated against Firefighter Shin.”
The details of that interference include allegedly not providing the Oakland police with a photo of Muhammed, thereby complicating attempts to arrest him. It adds that one of Shin’s supervisors asked Shin if “we could work something out” so Muhammed would not face criminal charges, and says that another supervisor gave Shin a “direct order to end his cooperation” with the Oakland police.
The suit adds that “Chief Nicholson punished Firefighter Shin by stripping him of his compensation and taking away his health insurance before the broken bones in his arm had even set.”
Muhammed’s aforementioned criminal attorney James Bustamante told NBC Bay Area, “All I can say is my client is one of the nicest human beings you’ll ever meet and a solid firefighter,” and he added that “Whatever happened off duty is an unfortunate event for all involved. Any civil suit arising from the incident is unjustified.”
Notably, that is not a denial.
The SF Fire Department declined to comment for either KGO or NBC Bay Area’s stories. But now it’s a federal civil suit against the city, and City Attorney David Chiu’s office told NBC Bay Area that they were reviewing the suit, apparently without commenting further.
Related: SF Firefighter Accused of Assaulting Another SF Firefighter [SFist]
Image: San Francisco Fire Department via Facebook