CHATSWORTH (CBSLA.com) — Three people, including two Los Angeles Fire Department firefighters, were charged Tuesday with assaulting a man on Halloween.
One of the firefighters is Michael Anthony Vitar, 36, a former child actor, who played Benny “The Jet” Rodriguez in the 1993 film “The Sandlot.”
Vitar, along with fellow firefighter Eric Carpenter, 38, and one of Carpenter’s neighbors, Thomas Molnar, 45, each faced one count of assault by means of force likely to cause great bodily injury, according to the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office. Carpenter was also charged with personally inflicting great bodily injury on the victim.
Carpenter hosted a Halloween party at his Chatsworth home where Vitar and Molnar attended. They became upset when they saw a 22-year-old man, who was visiting his grandmother, walking down a street handing out candy to kids, according to the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office.
Prosecutors said the trio ran after the man and jumped him, and Carpenter choked him.
But neighbors told a different story. Nick Ahmid said he did not see the attack but heard that the off-duty firefighters asked the man what kind of candy he was handing out, but he refused to answer.
“If you’re offering something to my kid, I have the right to know what you’re offering to my kid. That’s all. And that’s what they were doing,” Ahmid said. “In my opinion, they are heroes.”
Zina Goldman said she saw the aftermath of the incident. “The guy was passed out and not breathing is what I saw.” She said the three men stuck around when paramedics arrived. “My neighbor was helping to possibly to give him CPR or administer some kind of help,” Goldman recalled.
Carpenter faces up to seven years in prison if convicted, prosecutors s aid. Vitar and Molnar face up to four years in prison.
Carpenter and Vitar have both been placed on paid leave, the LAFD said.
“The Los Angeles Fire Department is aware of an incident involving two off-duty firefighters that is alleged to have occurred on Saturday, October 31,” according to the LAFD. “The department has cooperated fully with law enforcement during the subsequent investigation.”