Seattle fire chief apologizes for homeless attack

Seattle fire chief apologizes for homeless attack »Play Video
Seattle Fire Chief Gregory Dean speaks at a press conference on March 17, 2014.
SEATTLE - Seattle Fire Chief Gregory Dean has given an apology to the city, following the accusations that two firefighters drunkenly attacked two homeless men in Pioneer Square on Saturday.

In a press conference held Monday, Fire Chief Dean described how disappointed he was to learn two of his men - Robert Howell and Scott Bullene - are accused of kicking and punching a homeless man who was sleeping on the Fallen Firefighters Memorial.

"The actions that these firefighters are accused of is not representative of the conduct we expect of Seattle firefighters," Chief Dean said. "I expect Seattle firefighters to treat every person in our community with respect."

According to police reports, off-duty firefighter Howell and Mia Jarvinen were walking through Pioneer Square after the Sounders game when they came across a homeless man sleeping on the Seattle Fallen Firefighters Memorial near the intersection of Occidental Avenue and Main Street.

Upset that the homeless man was sleeping near the tribute to fallen firefighters, Jarvinen kicked the man and his food, sparking a fight between the Howell, the first homeless victim, and other homeless men who tried to help the victim.

Nearby - in a separate incident - 15-year fire veteran Bullene was seen fighting with another homeless victim. Witnesses say Bullene beat the man with the vicitm's walking stick, and ultimately was stabbed by the victim. Bullene was taken to the hospital with non-life threatening wounds.

Chief Dean stated he could not speak to Bullene's condition, or whether the stabbing incident is why Bullene is currently on disability.

The Seattle Fire Department said Sunday that Howell has been on disability since January, and with the department for 17 years. Police reports state Howell was arrested and taken to the West Precinct where he was released due to a pre-existing injury.

Jarvinen declined to appear in court on Monday, though an attorney for Jarvinen denied the allegations at the hearing. Charging documents say she's Bullene's girlfriend.

The prosecutor told the judge that Jarvinen was the first to kick the homeless man, demonstrating a disregard for human rights. Witnesses say she also egged on the firefighters.

Jarvinen was release from jail Monday night and hid her face from reporters.

The chief is also now looking into reports that Bullene may have been involved in a road rage incident last year.

A police report shows a witness account that Bullene aggressively cut-off another car on the freeway, causing a collision, then yelled profanities at the driver.

"Again the gut reaction is this- I'm disappointed in their actions. If it's accurate, I'm disappointed in how they represented the department," Chief Dean said.

Both Howell and Buellen will be placed on administrative leave while the police and fire department investigate the allegations.

"The expectation of firefighters is well-known. They're expected to be respectful and compassionate about everybody," Chief Dean said. "I hope we become stronger, and firefighters will become more sensitive to take the time to care for everyone as an individual."