CHULA VISTA, Calif. - A Chula Vista firefighter who was cuffed by the California Highway Patrol at an accident scene says he was humiliated inside the CHP cruiser.
Standing next to his attorney, Jake Gregoire shed more light on what he calls the “worst 30 minutes of his life.”
An accident in early February left a Ford Mustang flipped over on Interstate 805. Gregoire says that as he was preparing to lift one of the two injured into the ambulance, veteran CHP Officer Sergio Flores ordered him several times to drive the engine out of the scene or be arrested.
“It was just a very odd, surreal situation,” said Gregoire.
While two other fire engines left the scene, Gregoire says he refused to leave because his rig was acting as a buffer, protecting the ambulance from traffic.
“I asked him if he was prepared to take care of those two patients,” said Gregoire. “He replied, ‘Those two patients are not my problem.’”
Soon after, Gregoire was handcuffed and put in the backseat of the CHP cruiser.
Because of a bulky uniform and past shoulder injuries, Gregoire asked Flores to loosen the cuffs.
“I said, ‘I'm not going anywhere. Can you please loosen the cuffs?’ Click, they got a little tighter,” said Gregoire.
Gregoire says when he asked again, the officer laughed at him.
After some supervisors went back and forth, Gregoire was released after 30 minutes.
A day later, the CHP and the Chula Vista Fire Department issued a joint statement, calling it an “isolated incident” and a topic for future training sessions.
Gregoire says he has filed a legal claim against the CHP and the state because it is clear the incident is being “swept under the carpet.”
His attorney Dan Gilleon says he has uncovered a documented 2010 incident involving Flores threatening a firefighter with arrest. He also says there have been at least two run-ins between CHP and Chula Vista firefighters since the incident, and Flores was at the scene of one of them.
“I think there are people within the own department that want to hide certain facts, and that's the problem,” said Gilleon.
Gregoire says he is willing to drop his claim – precursor to a lawsuit – if a new policy is enacted that clears up any confusion about parking on the highway.
The CHP declined to comment, citing pending litigation.
Chula Vista’s fire chief referred 10News to a city representative who sent this statement:
“Because there is pending litigation, the City of Chula Vista is unable to comment on the February 4, 2014, incident between a California Highway Patrol (CHP) officer and one of our fire engineers. The CHP continues to investigate the incident. The City continues to meet with CHP and supports ongoing efforts to ensure situations that happened on February 4 do not happen again.”