New York, NY – A June brawl between two warring groups of New York firefighters shocked veterans of the Fire Department of New York City (FDNY) and has resulted in numerous investigations and suspensions.
“It was one of the most severe beatings they’ve seen on tape,” an anonymous department source told the New York Post about the reaction of FDNY’s leadership. “They can’t believe one of the guys wasn’t killed.”
The fights, of which there were several, began after an awards ceremony on June 6 when firefighters were celebrating at a bar called Billy’s near Yankee Stadium, the New York Post reported.
A source told the New York Post that a fight started inside Billy’s when a firefighter from Ladder 44 threw a commemorative T-shirt from Engine 68/Ladder 49 into the garbage can.
Then a Rescue 3 captain allegedly used a racial slur against a black firefighter from Engine 68.
Instagram videos filmed by witnesses and posted to social media showed firefighters struggling with police as officers tried to break up the scuffle.
“NYPD VS NYFD a group of drunk firefighters fighting with pedestrians and NYPD around Yankee stadium @ 940pm. The police did nothing but send them home,” one Instagram user wrote.
Later that night, Adam Soler of Engine 68, and his brother-in-law William Fitzpatrick and James McGowan, both firefighters with Ladder 49, showed up at Rescue 3 on Washington Avenue to complain about the poor treatment at Billy’s.
That’s when as many as 18 firefighters, not all assigned to Rescue 3, attacked Soler, Fitzpatrick, and McGowan.
A video given to FNDY officials showed the 35-year-old Soler being held down by two firefighters from Rescue 3, while a third firefighter repeatedly kicked him in the head and body, fire department sources told the New York Post.
“Someone grabbed his head and started pounding it into the pavement,” one source reported.
The source said one firefighter accidentally kicked a curb during the melee, and reacted as if he was in pain and was holding his foot, which may have been broken.
Soler had a concussion and has been on medical leave since the fight, according to the New York Post.
Engine 68 Captain Michael Nigro reportedly became so disturbed while watching the video of the brutal attack on his men that he had to pause it and take a break.
“He went outside to compose himself before coming back in to watch the rest of it,” a source told the New York Post.
But despite the brutality of what’s shown on the video, more than two months have passed and nobody has been arrested or fired.
In an internal order obtained by the New York Post, the fire department identified six firefighters, in addition to Soler, who were involved in the fight, and suspended them for one month.
Fitzpatrick, Soler’s brother-in-law, was one of the firefighters who was suspended.
The New York Post reported that an internal FDNY memo listed the five other suspended firefighters as Lieutenant Glen Berube, Duane Davis, Daniel Foley, and Joseph Killeen, all of Rescue 3, and Lawrence Munafo Jr. of Engine 68, and Michael Pattwell of Ladder 44.
All have since been reinstated but remain on restricted duty while the investigation is completed, a source told the New York Post.
One source blamed FDNY Fire Commissioner Daniel Nigro for failing to take stronger action.
“If they assaulted anyone, they shouldn’t be getting a paycheck,” a FDNY source told the New York Post. “They should be getting a prison cell.”
On June 9, the FDNY issued a statement that said it had “obtained disturbing video” from both of the fights on June 6, and that it had been turned over to city investigators.
“Everyone and anyone who engaged in this outrageous behavior will be held accountable,” Commissioner Nigro said at the time, according to the New York Post.
However, New York Police Department confirmed its officers have made no arrests nor filed any reports about the fight at Billy’s or the fight at Rescue 3.
The city’s Department of Investigation and the Bronx District Attorney’s Office were investigating.