TX Firefighter Suspended Following Domestic Violence Allegation Seeks Reinstatement

Firefighter helmet

Jacob Beltran

San Antonio Express-News

(MCT)

Nov. 15—A San Antonio firefighter who was suspended indefinitely following allegations that he picked up his wife by her neck then threw her to the ground appeared before an arbitrator Monday seeking reinstatement.

Firefighter Christopher White was issued an indefinite suspension in February by Chief Charles Hood.

During Monday’s hearing, arbitrator Lynn Rubinett heard testimony from Hood, two New Braunfels police officers who responded to White’s home, and a domestic violence expert.

The incident, which occurred on Oct. 13, 2020, began after White and his wife returned home after a night out. The two had previously argued about images of a woman found on White’s phone, according to police body camera footage presented during the hearing.

White’s wife told police that he was apparently drunk when he started asking her whom she was texting at 2 a.m.

White told his wife she was acting “shady,” video footage showed.

She later told police that she was texting a friend to make sure she had gotten home safely, the body cam footage showed.

At one point, White allegedly took his wife’s phone and broke it as she was attempting to call 911. She had also asked her friend via text message to call 911, she said.

White told police that he did not know how her phone got broken.

When the 911 call was not completed, New Braunfels police sent officers to their home to investigate, according to testimony from two officers who responded to the scene.

White’s wife answered the door and spoke with officers outside, telling them that he broke through the door to a bathroom, where she had locked herself in and was attempting to turn her phone on and continue calling for help.

At that point, she told police, White allegedly broke down the door and grabbed her by her neck and lifted her from the ground for several seconds. He lifted her a second time and threw her against another object, she said.

Video evidence presented in the hearing shows what officers presumed to be White’s blood on the door frame, as well as on a wall behind the door. The frame was splintered where the lock is located, according to video evidence.

White, meanwhile, led officers to a master bedroom bathroom door that he said was broken in 2016 by his ex-wife, according to the footage. He is later seen telling to police that his wife had locked herself in a guest bathroom.

Police arrested White for interfering with a 911 call and impeding breathe or circulation, but White’s wife later recanted her statement to police, Hood said.

In February, the department issued White an indefinite suspension.

“People call us on the worst days of their life,” Hood said Monday during questioning by attorneys. “That public image cannot be tarnished with a domestic violence case.”

Among the violations cited in White’s suspension is not demonstrating the truthfulness expected of firefighters.

Hood said that White told him he was having an incident of post-traumatic stress disorder and that he had blacked out. Hood said the statements conflicted with the information he received from police reports.

Ricky Poole, White’s attorney, questioned whether considering that White was having a PTSD-induced blackout would have made a difference in his punishment.

Hood said that having PTSD does not give anyone the right to lay their hands on someone.

At the same time, Hood said he doesn’t take issuing an indefinite suspension lightly. He said the department issued a memo to firefighters last year telling them that the department would have zero-tolerance for domestic violence, considering up to an indefinite suspension in such instances.

In cross examination by White’s attorney, Hood said he told White that if the allegations are false to fight for his job.

“That’s what he’s doing today,” Hood said.

Poole asked Hood whether he believed that people are innocent until proven guilty in court.

“In this line of work sometimes, unfortunately, the evidence shows an act of violence occurred such as this. We have to act on that immediately,” Hood said.

The arbitration hearing is expected to continue Tuesday.

jbeltran@express-news.net

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