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Fire scene in Jamesport turns to fisticuffs; member temporarily suspended

07/20/2017 6:01 AM |

A 40-year member of the Jamesport Fire Department was temporarily suspended and could face departmental charges for his role in a fight that broke out at a fire scene July 3.

Tom Brady, 65, a former chair of the Jamesport Fire District board of commissioners, says he wasn’t the aggressor in the fight, which was caught on video by a Riverhead Town employee. And he said his suspension was lifted Tuesday evening at a board of commissioners meeting.

The incident in question took place July 3 about 12:30 p.m. at the East Creek boat ramp on Peconic Bay Boulevard in Jamesport.

A town recreation department vehicle had caught fire there, and Jamesport Fire Department volunteers arrived quickly to extinguish it.

In the video, Mr. Brady approaches fellow firefighter Joseph A. Szot from behind, places a hand on his shoulder and turns him around to speak to him. Mr. Szot’s father, Joseph Szot Jr., is a current fire commissioner with the department.

The video was turned over to Riverhead Town and made available through a Freedom of Information request. It also shows the younger Szot, 24, stepping in front of Mr. Brady as shoving begins, after which Joseph Szot Jr., 54, also jumps into the fray. Mr. Brady becomes pinned against a fire truck until other firefighters break up the scuffle. The video, apparently taken with a cell phone and somewhat shaky, shows the encounter lasting less than a minute.

Mr. Brady says he was punched several times and went to the hospital, where his injuries were described as “contusions,” of which he has photos.

A Riverhead Town police report was filed by Mr. Brady, but no police charges were filed or sought, as the report says it will “be handled in-house with JFD officers.” The report also says Mr. Brady was “wishing to document the incidents since it’s not the first one with the [Szots].”

“There have been arguments before, but I’ve never seen it come to fisticuffs,” Mr. Brady said in an interview.

He said he originally confronted the younger Szot at the scene on July 3 because “he nearly hit me with the truck” while pulling out of fire headquarters.

After the fight, Mr. Brady said he was suspended by Chief John Andrejack. No one else was suspended.

The July 3 scene where firefighters got into a fight. (Credit: Kelly Zegers)

On Tuesday, the fracas was discussed during a commissioners meeting in executive session, which is closed to the public, Afterward, Mr. Brady said he was told that his suspension was lifted, but he still faced potential departmental charges.

Following the meeting, Mr. Szot Jr. declined comment, saying, “It wouldn’t be right to comment while the incident is still under investigation.” His son was not at the meeting and could not be immediately reached for comment.

Mr. Andrejack also declined to comment.

Bob Sikora, chairman of the commissioners, confirmed Wednesday that the suspension had been lifted and that an attorney hired by the district is reviewing the video.

Mr. Brady, who is a retired Suffolk County Police lieutenant and an Air Force veteran, said he wasn’t told what type of charges he might face.

Editor’s Note: The video above was edited to begin when the altercation started. The audio was muted due to offensive language.

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