LOS ANGELES (CBSLA.com) — Sammy Chang began videotaping on his cellphone when he says off-duty LA City firefighter Eric Carpenter began following him on Halloween night 2015.
Chang, a 23-year-old college student, said within moments other partygoers began to follow.
He said he was out that night giving out free candy in a Chatsworth neighborhood where his grandmother lived.
Carpenter, and the others — including another off-duty fireman — accused him of giving out drug-laced candy.
They taunted Chang, asked for his address and began to give chase.
Carpenter wore a He-Man costume.
Chang told the men he had no drugs. During the chase, his phone fell to the ground.
You can hear someone advising Carpenter, “Not a good idea, Eric. Not a good idea.”
The next video, taken by a neighbor, shows Chang on the ground with Carpenter holding him down in a headlock.
The other off-duty firefighter, identified as Michael Vitar, is also shown holding Chang down. (Vitar was a former child actor who played Benny “The Jet” Rodriguez in the “Sandlot” movie.
The men holding Chang down continue asking him why he is there and tell him to stop fighting them.
Goldstein reported this video goes on for six minutes.
At this point, the firefighters realize Chang has passed out.
The police report of the incident said Chang sustained head trauma, bleeding on the brain, renal failure and a hemorrhage caused by suffocation. The police also determined the candy contained no drugs.
The DA’s office charged the two firefighters — and another neighbor — with felony assault. Carpenter was also charged with causing great bodily injury.
The DA put out a press release that said Carpenter faced seven years in prison if convicted of all charges.
But when the case got to court — in a move that even surprised police — Carpenter and the others were allowed to plead no contest to a misdemeanor.
Carpenter got three years probation and 135 days of community service.
Goldstein asked Chang what his reaction was to the reduced sentence.
“My heart stopped and blood stopped flowing to my brain — yet this wasn’t considered a felony? I was shocked,” he said.
The DA’s office declined an on-camera interview but issued the following statement:
“While some advocated for harsher sentences, the District Attorney’s office did not believe a jury would find the defendants guilty of of felony conduct given the facts of the case.”
Chang’s attorney, Dave Ring, believes it was a politically-motivated decision.
“I heard through sources that someone put pressure all the way to the top of the DA’s office and because these men were firefighters and because they were connected to someone high (up) in the DA’s office, that the DA went easy on them,” Ring says.
Had the firefighters been convicted of felonies they might have lost their careers.
LA Fire Chief Ralph Terrazas admits a felony charge could have meant termination — a misdemeanor got him six months without pay.
Goldstein found Carpenter is already back at work having served his suspension. He’s back in uniform, but as Goldstein found, not saying much.
He was asked if he regretted what happened that night?
“The entire incident was regrettable,” he said, “certainly things could have been handled different but we’re all trying to move forward and I appreciate your time and interest in it. Thank you.”
Chang’s attorney plans on filing civil charges against the two firefighters and three others.