A Los Angeles firefighter who took a plea deal in a felony assault case Wednesday involving a 24-year-old graduate student was sued Thursday by the victim.
The six-minute attack that seriously injured Samuel Chang, then 23, happened on Halloween night in 2015 on a Chatsworth street where 40-year-old off-duty Los Angeles firefighter Eric Carpenter lived, according to Chang’s Los Angeles Superior Court lawsuit that alleges assault, battery, intentional infliction of emotional distress, false imprisonment and negligence.
Other named defendants are another Los Angeles firefighter, Michael Anthony Vitar, Thomas Molnar, Eugene Elbert and Michael Cirlin. The suit alleges all of the defendants chased Chang and tackled him to the ground.
Vitar is a former child star who had a role in the baseball film “The Sandlot.”
The suit seeks unspecified damages.
Chang, a UC Santa Barbara graduate student, went to his grandmother’s Chatsworth residence that night so he could pass out candy when a group of men led by Carpenter demanded to know why he was in their neighborhood and asked Chang if the candy he was passing out was laced with drugs, according to an affidavit submitted by detectives of the Los Angeles Police Department’s Robbery-Homicide Division, which investigated the case.
Chang denied trying to harm children and pulled out his phone to record the confrontation. In the videos, Chang asks the men why they are following him and runs away as he begs onlookers to call police.
Two additional video clips show Chang trapped against the asphalt as a man identified in the LAPD affidavit as Carpenter has his forearm on Chang’s throat while the other men can be seen pinning Chang’s legs to the ground. The video shows Chang in some variation of a chokehold roughly six-and-a-half minutes.
The victim suffered a series of injuries, including kidney failure and severe head trauma.
“When defendants finally called 911, they lied to the police by saying that plaintiff was on PCP,” the suit alleges.
The defendants also falsely told police that Chang was armed, according to the complaint.
Hospital tests showed Chang “was indeed near death,” the suit states. He was hospitalized for two weeks, part of that time in intensive care, according to the lawsuit.
Carpenter and Vitar were suspended by the Fire Department without pay for six months because of their conduct, the suit states.
Although a probation report recommended Carpenter serve at least a year in jail, he pleaded no contest to a misdemeanor assault charge in May and was sentenced to three years probation and 135 days of community service, records show.
Vitar and Thomas Molnar, a Carpenter neighbor, pleaded no contest to misdemeanor battery in December. They received three years probation and 90 days of community service, according to court records. The two firefighters were suspended for six months without pay but have returned to full duty.
Chang’s attorney claims Carpenter received special treatment because his lawyer, Michael Goldstein, has a relationship with District Attorney Jackie Lacey, serving as her campaign finance director when she was first elected in 2012.
Goldstein denies the claim.
—City News Service
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