News10NBC Investigates: Councilmember calls incident between RFD officers on porch of burning house ‘very troubling’

City responds to video appearing to show firefighter altercation

City responds to video appearing to show firefighter altercation

ROCHESTER, N.Y. — The head of public safety committee on the Rochester City Council wants answers about physical contact between two RFD officers recorded at a dangerous house fire Tuesday morning.

A video shows the moment when a RFD deputy chief and a lieutenant came into contact on the porch of a burning house.

It was a fire on Copeland Street in Rochester. It was so big, a second alarm was called.

In the video, you can see firefighters leaving the house and porch as ordered by the deputy chief on the scene. But the video shows one lieutenant in a yellow helmet remained on the porch.

The video shows a deputy chief in a white helmet walk onto the porch towards the lieutenant and extend his arms against the lieutenant. The lieutenant went to the ground. The deputy chief appeared to point at him and then turned and walked off the porch. The lieutenant got back on his feet and followed him.

“In the video he pushes this guy, another officer, down and then walks away,” City Council member Willie Lightfoot said Thursday night. “Now this, Mr. Mayor, is troubling. Very very troubling.”

Lightfoot raised the incident with Mayor Malik Evans as he talked about other internal concerns inside the Rochester Fire Department at the City Council’s Public Safety Committee meeting Thursday night.

Willie Lightfoot, Chair, City Council Public Safety Committee: “I would like for us to get a report on what happened at this incident at the Copeland Street second-alarm fire so we can have a better understanding of what happened at this incident.”
Mayor Malik Evans: “So what you’re saying, there’s a video?”
Lightfoot: “It’s viral.”
Mayor: “We’ll follow up on that and report back on the circumstances of that.”

In an email Thursday, the mayor’s spokeswoman said the fire chief was made aware of the video Wednesday and talked to both the deputy chief and lieutenant.

City Hall says the incident is not what it appears to be.

The city says after ordering firefighters out of the house and off the porch, the deputy chief tried to grab the lieutenant to get him off the porch and the lieutenant tripped on debris. The city pointed to another instance in the video when a firefighter is seen tripping on the porch.

The thing that concerns Councilmember Lightfoot is that, after the firefighter falls, the deputy chief doesn’t help him up.

“The video is very clear,” he said to Mayor Evans.

“Councilman … we will definitely follow up on that and get back to you,” the mayor answered.

The firefighters’ union president called me and said he spoke to the lieutenant four times since Tuesday. Eddie Santiago says the lieutenant does not feel like he was pushed and that he tripped on stuff that was on the porch.

The fire chief was at the meeting Thursday night. Councilmember Lightfoot did not ask him direct questions. The chief was not available to talk to me on camera Thursday night or Friday.