Goldstein Investigation: Did LA County Go Easy On 2 Firefighters Accused In Horrific Assault?

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.

Comments

One Comment

  1. That firefighter and his buddy should be thrown the book what they did is a full BULLY moment. They are disgusting human beings who almost killed an innocent human being. LOSERS in my book

  2. Dean Comer says:

    You are an idiot if you believe this is the whole story! A guy passing candy out to children with his zipper down and refusing to leave is a red flag for any parent. It’s a shame this reporter did not get all the facts. Obviously if the DA was unable to press charges then all the facts have not been made public!

    1. Dean, you’re an idiot if you believe these criminals over the videos. It’s a shame you continue to spread lies. Obviously if Carpenter’s lawyer, Goldstein, hadn’t contributed money to the DA’s political accounts and also served as her campaign finance director, then they would have pressed charges. Why don’t you actually do some research before spreading your lies?

  3. Dean, you’re an idiot if you believe these criminals over the videos. It’s a shame you continue to spread lies. Obviously if Carpenter’s lawyer, Goldstein, hadn’t contributed money to the DA’s political accounts and also served as her campaign finance director, then they would have pressed charges. Why don’t you actually do some research before spreading your lies?

    1. Dean Comer says:

      Caustic observer is that to hide. You my sir are and moron! Unless you were there which you weren’t or you saw all videos from the security cameras in the neighborhood or interviewed the 15 witnesses or were in the court room you would have a different stand but, glad you are easily persuaded by the one sided media. That is why you have a one side view but like you said you need to do your research. Do everyone a favor and stop spreading your lies. It’s obvious you only have limited info and feel like bashing the individuals involved. Good for you!

  4. John D Oe says:

    Where Ted Liu when we need him?

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