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This article was published 8/1/2016 (1756 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
A veteran, award-winning Winnipeg firefighter has been accused of pocketing jewelry from an elderly patient in medical distress after responding to a 911 call inside her home, the Free Press has learned.
The 46-year-old was arrested just before Christmas and released on a promise to appear in court on a charge of theft. The Free Press is not naming him until the charge is formally sworn, which likely won’t happen until just before his first court date Feb. 9.
Police began investigating after several of the firefighter’s colleagues recently came forward with information about something they claim to have witnessed weeks earlier while on the first responder call, which ultimately ended with the woman dying, according to several sources.
"All members of the fire and paramedic service are shocked at these allegations, as these charges go against everything a firefighter or paramedic stands for," Alex Forrest, president of the United Fire Fighters of Winnipeg, told the Free Press Friday. "We hope the allegations are untrue."
The accused firefighter is currently suspended without pay pending a meeting between management and the union. Forrest said it’s possible he may be put back to work in a role where he would have no contact with the public while his matter remains before the courts.
"We will ensure this person will have due process as this person is innocent until proven otherwise in a court of law," said Forrest. "We can state that we are not involved in the criminal defence of this person nor are we funding the defence in any way."
The Free Press requested comment from WFPS administration, but a city spokeswoman said they would not be discussing what she called "human resource matters."
Sources say the firefighters who turned the accused in are now facing their own scrutiny over the delay in coming forward. They could face internal sanctions if found to have deliberately withheld information.
"He wasn’t originally turned in by co-workers out of fear of not having enough on him," one firefighter familiar with the case told the Free Press this week. "Ninety-nine-point-nine per cent of us believe that our public trust is the only thing that matters. The point-one per cent who don’t are just sad."
Police forwarded the findings of their investigation to the Crown’s office, which authorized the charge last month following a brief review of the file. Sources did not know the exact quantity and value of jewelry stolen, along with whether it has been recovered.
City records show the accused firefighter has previously been given a commendation for life-saving efforts on the job. This is believed to be the first allegation of its kind involving a WFPS member but has now triggered plenty of internal discussion and debate about how it was handled by all parties.
"Hopefully this situation forces the job to build policy regarding these circumstances," a firefighter said this week.