Fight Bravest Over Man Stuck In Chimney
Ronald Griffiths – E.S.U.)
Chimney-Caught Burglar Sets Off Firefighter, Cops Battle
By Sean Gardiner - Friday, June 27th, 2003 N.Y. Newsday
The plight of a would-be burglar stuck in the chimney of a Queens restaurant became the latest flashpoint in the long-simmering battle of the badges between city cops and firefighters.
At 2:50 a.m. Friday, police received an anonymous 911 call from a man saying he heard someone screaming for help from the roof of Luigi's Italian Cuisine restaurant at 83-22 37th Ave. in Jackson Heights.
Police said officers from the 115th Precinct found William Quinga, 22, stuck in the chimney. Then, both the Fire Department and the NYPD's Emergency Service Unit were called to aid in the rescue.
But before the effort could begin in earnest, New York's Bravest and New York's Finest faced off over who would get the unlucky suspect out of the chimney.
What happened next depends on what's inscribed on the badge of the story-teller.
According to the Finest: ESU officers entered the restaurant to make sure there were no other suspects inside. Two officers from the 115th Precinct were told to stay outside until the restaurant was deemed safe. As the ESU officers searched, firefighter John Gaine, 40, tried to push past cops standing guard at the front doors.
An ESU officer pushed Gaine out of the restaurant, and a shoving match ensued. After cops pushed Gaine to the ground and handcuffed him, charging him with obstruction of governmental administration, he complained of chest pain and was taken to Elmhurst Hospital Center where he was treated and released.
According to the Bravest: firefighters arrived at the scene at the same time as police. They said an FDNY ladder truck was used to get firefighters and police officers to the roof where a fire captain used his flashlight and spotted Quinga in the chimney.
Gaine was ordered by a supervisor to go into the restaurant and assess the situation. When he entered the restaurant, Gaine saw several police officers sitting around.
Gaine said that after walking by several officers, one of the cops asked him what he was doing in the restaurant because it was a crime scene. He said the officer grabbed his arm, causing him to pull back and trip over a box of tools the police left on the ground. Gaine twisted his knee, he said.
"The officer told me to get up off the floor," Gaine said. "When I couldn't, he asked me, 'Is this the way it's going to be?' After that he arrested me."
"I wish I could turn back the clock," he told Newsday. "I wish this had never happened. I just don't want this to drag out."
Those with police badges pointed out that Gaine had been a police officer in 1984 and 1985 but was fired after getting into a fight off-duty.
Fire officials, who described Gaine as a "very decent guy," said they knew about the fight and that Gaine didn't throw the punch but was with another probationary officer who did. Since joining the FDNY nearly 15 years ago, Gaine has received five citations for bravery and survived the tragic Father's Day fire in Astoria in June 2001 in which three firefighters were killed and four others badly injured.
Meanwhile, it took police about two hours to free Quinga by hacking through the brick chimney. Police said it appears that Quinga, perhaps working with an accomplice, used a garden hose to attempt to repel down the chimney, but that he got stuck when the hose broke.
Antoinette Samyn, whose mother owns Luigi's, said police called her sister, Josephine Napolitano, Friday morning and told her about the burglar. At the time, Napolitano was watching a television show about the world's stupidest criminals, Samyn said.
"How in the world would he get through there?" Samyn asked. "Why? Unless you're pretty stupid."
Quinga was also taken to Elmhurst Hospital Center where he was treated and released. He was charged with burglary and criminal possession of burglar's tools.
Some historical accounts date the feud between the city's police and fire departments to the 1863 "Draft Riots" when volunteer firefighters, upset that they were losing their draft exemption, set fire to a draft office.
Engine Co. # 33 “The Black Joker” [Now Engine Co. 23] on 58th
Street telegraphed the 19 Pct. on East 59th Street stating that they
would burn down the 9th District Draft Office on 3rd
Avenue between East 46th Street & East 47th Street.
This reckless and criminal action started the NYC Draft Riots that resulted in
the deaths of 4 police officers and 2 station houses being burned to the ground.
– Mike Bosak)
More recent clashes have centered on Ground Zero recovery efforts and chain-of-command issues.
The continuation of the battle Friday didn't go unnoticed by Mayor Michael Bloomberg who summoned Police Commissioner Ray Kelly and Fire Commissioner Nicholas Scoppetta to City Hall saying, "We want to get on top of this before it gets out of control."
"This is something that we will not tolerate in this city," Bloomberg said.
Staff writers Xiomara Lorenzo, Dan Janison and Wil Cruz contributed to this story.
A Hero Firefighter, Gaine Was Fired As Cop
By Xiomara Lorenzo - Friday, June 27th, 2003 N.Y. Newsday
The cop-turned-firefighter who got into a dispute with his former colleagues had been fired from the force but lauded as a hero for the past 15 years by FDNY comrades.
Firefighter John Gaine, arrested at the burglar-in-the-chimney scene Friday, has a spotless record and five citations for bravery, the Fire Department said.
The Police Department, however, noted that he had been fired in 1984 as a probationary cop after an off-duty altercation outside Yankee Stadium after a ballgame.
The FDNY said Gaine was hired about four years after he was fired and has been with Rescue 4 in Woodside for the past five years.
"He's got a good record with us," Fire Department spokesman Frank Gribbon said.
Gaine has a long history of high-risk assignments. He was on duty during the Father's Day fire in Astoria in June 2001 where three firefighters were killed, including two from Rescue 4. Three months later, he responded with Rescue 4 to the World Trade Center attacks, where nine firefighters that rode with Rescue 4 died.
Gaine is known as an outgoing, quick-to-smile colleague. When asked if he expects Gaine would be leave his position in the station, Lt. Tim Kelly, his supervising officer Friday, replied, "Absolutely not."
Gaine told Newsday he went into Luigi's Restaurant in Jackson Heights to assess what had happened after Rescue 4 responded to a report of a man caught in a shaft.
He said an emergency service cop inside grabbed his arm and told him he could not be in the restaurant.
He quoted the officer as saying: "This is a crime scene. What are you doing here?"
Gaine said he pulled his arm away and fell onto a box of police emergency tools, twisting his leg.
He said the officer told him to get up. When Gaine said that he could not, he was arrested for refusing to cooperate.
"He asked me, 'Is this the way it's going to be?'" Gaine said. "It happened in 15 seconds."
Gaine said he wanted to put the incident behind him.
"I wish I could turn back the clock and that this had never happened," he said.
Staff writer William Murphy contributed to this story.
By BRIGITTE STELZER, ADAM MILLER and JAMIE SCHRAM - N.Y. Post
June 28, 2003 -- A would-be burglar stuck in the chimney of a Queens restaurant yesterday sparked a battle of the badges that Mayor Bloomberg tried to douse by bringing in top cop Ray Kelly and his FDNY counterpart for an emergency meeting.
Firefighter John Gaine, 40, was arrested for obstructing governmental administration after entering a crime scene during a police search for additional burglary suspects at Luigi Italian Cuisine restaurant at 84-22 37th Ave. in Jackson Heights, cops said.
Gaine - a former cop booted from the NYPD in 1985 after being involved in a melee following a Yankee game - suffered a knee injury when he was shoved to the ground during a scuffle with a police officer.
The incident began when cops and firefighters were called to the restaurant just before 3 a.m.
An investigation determined that William Quinga, 22, was trying to burglarize the restaurant when he became lodged in the chimney.
But Gaine, a 15-year veteran assigned to Rescue Co. 4, and other Bravest thought they were responding to a rescue.
Gaine entered the eatery on the orders of his captain, fire sources said.
Inside, he was stopped by a beefy cop who ordered him to leave, saying it was a crime scene.
The pair exchanged some heated words before the cop shoved Gaine, the firefighter said.
"It was one push, and I fell to the ground and twisted my knee," Gaine, supporting himself with crutches, told The Post.
"I didn't do anything wrong. We got a call to respond. We thought it was a rescue and that someone was injured."
Emergency workers had to break through a wall to remove Quinga, who was charged with burglary and criminal trespassing after being treated at Elmhurst Hospital.
The Police and Fire departments said they were investigating.
Additional reporting by Stefan C. Friedman, David Seifman, Murray Weiss and Post Wire Services
Crime Scene or Rescue? Man in Chimney Causes a Clash
By MICHAEL BRICK - Saturday, June 28, 2003 N.Y. Times
It started with a hapless would-be burglar stuck in a chimney in Queens. Add a few hours in the sweltering city, a scuffle between members of elite police and fire rescue units and a descending horde of television cameras, and all of a sudden the mayor was calling an emergency meeting with his top police and fire officials.
Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, who spent yesterday morning at Marcus Garvey Park in Harlem promoting the opening of the city's swimming pools, found himself standing soaking wet in front of television cameras, answering questions about a firefighter's arrest with a vow to "get on top of this before it gets out of control."
"Hopefully, it was just some tempers going a little bit overboard when it was very hot and when they were under stress in trying to save somebody's life and also work a crime scene," he said at the pool, wearing a T-shirt that memorialized police officers and firefighters killed on 9/11.
Mr. Bloomberg called a meeting with Police Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly and Fire Commissioner Nicholas Scoppetta because, according to the mayor's spokesman, Edward Skyler, "if you express distaste for seemingly minor incidents, hopefully you will prevent major ones."
This particular seemingly minor incident began just before 3 a.m. at Luigi Italian Restaurant in Jackson Heights, where a three-course dinner can be had for $19.58 on a weekday. The restaurant is in a one-story, red brick building with a triangular parapet and a sloped, tiled roof. Inside the chimney is a round metal shaft with a diameter of about a foot, and it was into this shaft that a man named William Quinga, who is 22 and also goes by the name of William Vermeo, climbed a few hours after the restaurant had closed for the night, according to the police. He got stuck and began screaming.
A 911 call from a passer-by summoned regular firefighters and police officers from the 115th Precinct, as well as members of the police Emergency Service Unit and Rescue 4 of the Fire Department. Both units specialize in getting people out of tight spaces.
While Mr. Quinga (or Mr. Vermeo) waited in the shaft, Detective Ronald Griffiths of the police and Firefighter John T. Gaine quarreled. Fire and police officials agreed that the topic of their argument was whether it was appropriate for Firefighter Gaine to be in the restaurant, which was sealed as a crime scene. Detective Griffiths arrested Firefighter Gaine and issued him a desk appearance ticket for "obstructing governmental administration."
But Firefighter Gaine said last night that the detective had told him to leave the restaurant, grabbed his arm and shoved him so that he tripped over a toolbox and hurt his knee. He was treated at Elmhurst Hospital Center. "I was doing my job, what I was told to do by my superiors," he said, "and I was thrown on the ground and placed under arrest."
The chief spokesman for the Fire Department, Francis X. Gribbon, said, "When the district attorney reviews the facts here, they'll find that he was merely trying to do his job."
Disputes between members of the two departments at rescue scenes have been common for decades. They have been so numerous that the phrase "battle of the badges" was coined to describe them. After the World Trade Center attack, the departments vowed to improve their practices and exchanged liaison officers. The two commissioners also pledged to meet more frequently.
At the scene yesterday, the two sets of rescuers disagreed about the best way to extricate Mr. Quinga from the chimney.
The firefighters went up to the roof and wanted to pull him out from above. But the police eventually ripped down the wood paneling covering the shaft inside the restaurant and smashed through a layer of bricks. They charged Mr. Quinga with burglary, criminal trespassing and possession of burglary tools.
They left a pile of bricks on the sidewalk and an industrial trash can full of dust inside the restaurant.
Its owners, Michelina Napolitano and her daughter Antoinette Samyn, spent the morning straightening up and serving free veal parmigiana sandwiches to television reporters and cameramen.
Ms. Samyn said that her sister Josephine Napolitano had suggested to the police and firefighting units a way to free Mr. Quinga without smashing walls. She wanted them to pour olive oil into the shaft so that they could grease up Mr. Quinga and pop him right out.
But Ms. Samyn said that it was probably for the best that the authorities had ignored the suggestion.
"Virgin olive oil is expensive," she said. "My mother would have been annoyed."
Thief in pinch, cops in clinch
By MICHELE McPHEE, WARREN WOODBERRY Jr. and TRACY CONNOR - Friday, June 27th, 2003 N.Y. DAILY NEWS
It started out as a Stupid Human Trick.
It wound up as a Battle of the Badges.
A break-in at a Queens restaurant yesterday caused a big commotion when the burglar got stuck in the chimney - and cops and firefighters trying to rescue him got into a fight.
After the embarrassing incident, Mayor Bloomberg summoned Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly and Fire Commissioner Nicholas Scoppetta to City Hall for a chat.
"We want to get on top of this before it gets out of control," Bloomberg said. "Hopefully, it was just some tempers going a little bit overboard when it was very hot and when they were under stress and trying to save somebody's life."
The drama unfolded about 3 a.m., when William Quinga, 22, of Jamaica, Queens, allegedly tried to break into Luigi's on 37th Ave. in Jackson Heights.
Quinga apparently hoped to shimmy down the unused chimney but got lodged inside. Someone, possibly an accomplice, called police.
Meanwhile, restaurant manager Josephine Napolitano and her husband, Joey, had just settled down at home in Malba, Queens, to watch a TV show called "Stupid Behavior: Caught on Tape."
The episode featured the rescue of a burglar who got stuck in a restaurant chimney.
"Not even five minutes later, we got a phone call and the police said, 'Guess what? You got a man stuck in your chimney,'" Napolitano said.
"I thought it was a joke."
Breaking through wall
Back at the restaurant, cops broke through the door and were using jackhammers on a brick wall to reach Quinga.
The scuffle occurred when Rescue 4 Firefighter John Gaine walked inside.
"He was confronted by cops who told him to leave the crime scene," an FDNY source said.
"The cop grabbed John, and he got mad at being grabbed. The cop says, 'It's a crime scene. Get out of here.' John got pushed and got hurt. These guys arrested him," according to the source.
The situation got even uglier after Gaine was handcuffed on the floor and a cop began yelling, "You're drunk. You're drunk," the source said.
A test found no trace of alcohol in Gaine's system, sources said.
Gaine, who said his knee was hurt, was furious, the source said. He said he was "just trying to do my job," according to the source.
Police said Gaine defied orders to stay outside while cops searched for other suspects. The NYPD would not identify the officer involved.
The Queens district attorney's office declined to press charges against Gaine.
Gaine was once a cop, but he was fired as a rookie in 1985 after a brawl with fellow officers outside Yankee Stadium, a police source said.
As a firefighter, he survived the Father's Day 2000 blast in Astoria that killed three Bravest. He has received five commendations.
"John Gaine is an absolute gentleman," said a high-ranking fire official. "This is horrendous what the cops did here."
Quinga was finally extricated about 5 a.m. He was charged with burglary, trespassing and possession of burglary tools and taken to Elmhurst Hospital Center in stable condition.
With Tom Raftery and Michael Saul
Sent: Friday, June 27, 2003 12:07 PM
Subject: UPDATE 115 PCT
ON 6/27/03 AT 0250 HRS, AT 83-14 37 AVE, JACKSON HEIGHTS, CONFINES OF
THE 115 PCT, POLICE RESPONDED TO A CALL OF A RESCUE (AIDED) AND
DISCOVERED A M/B STUCK IN THE CHIMNEY OF THE LOCATION. INVESTIGATION
DETERMINED THAT THE AIDED WAS IN THE PROCESS OF COMMITTING A BURGLARY
WHEN HE BECAME LODGED IN THE CHIMNEY. THE SUSPECT WAS REMOVED TO
ELMHURST GENERAL HOSP IN STABLE CONDITION.
A MEMBER OF THE FIRE DEPARTMENT NEW YORK WAS ALSO ARRESTED FOR
OBSTRUCTING GOVERNMENTAL ADMINISTRATION AFTER ENTERING THE CRIME SCENE
DURING A POLICE SEARCH FOR ADDITIONAL PERPETRATORS.
ARRESTED: JOHN GAINES M/W/40
CHARGE: OBSTRUCTING GOVERNMENTAL ADMINISTRATION
**********UPDATE 6/27/03 SGT KH**************
THE BURGLARY SUSPECT HAS BEEN IDENTIFIED AS:
WILLIAM QUINGA AKA WILLIAM VERMEO M/H/22
95-25 SUTPHIN BLVD
CHARGES: BURGLARY, CRIM TRESPASS, POSS OF BURG TOOLS
Rescue Of Suspected Chimney Burglar Leads To Scuffle Between Firefighter and Cop
By: Andrew Siff - Saturday, June 28, 2003 NY1 News
The rescue of a man who ended up stuck in a chimney while allegedly trying to burglarize a Queens restaurant Friday led to the arrest of a veteran firefighter for scuffling with a police officer.
William Quinga, 32, got stuck in a chimney early Friday morning while allegedly trying to break into Luigi's Italian Kitchen in Jackson Heights, Queens. He also got stuck in the middle of a feud between firefighters and police.
"Well, it's the kind of thing you simply hope would never happen," said Fire Commissioner Nicholas Scoppetta.
What happened is Firefighter John Gaine tried to get inside the restaurant and get the burglar out of the chimney. But the Police Department's Emergency Services Unit had cordoned off the building, with no one - not even firefighters - allowed in.
Gaine and the ESU officer argued, and sources tell NY1 the police officer physically stopped Gaine from getting inside.
"A search was being conducted in the store for another perpetrator, and firemen allegedly, reportedly, tried to come in the store, and some sort of conflict took place," said Police Commissioner Ray Kelly.
Gaine told his bosses he was injured in the scuffle, but police arrested Gaine and charged him with obstructing governmental administration.
When Mayor Michael Bloomberg was informed, he was opening a city pool. He quickly summoned Kelly and Scoppetta for a Friday afternoon meeting at City Hall.
"I'm sure the police commissioner and the fire commissioner, without me even telling them, are on top of that," Bloomberg said before the meeting. "We are all here to work together, and our administration will not tolerate any agencies or anybody that works with city government not cooperating."
Late Friday afternoon, police sources told NY1 Gaine is a former cop who was fired as a Bronx rookie back in 1985 for allegedly punching a civilian. But FDNY sources countered Gaine was dismissed for no good reason, and that the civilian punched was an unruly driver for an indicted Patrolmen's Benevolent Association official.
FDNY sources say the NYPD fired several rookies in that incident, Gaine among them.
Friday's situation raised new questions about police and fire communication, a topic which has surfaced before and especially after September 11, 2001, as critics called for an incident command manual with clear rules as to who's in charge when both agencies respond.
"Well, we'll look at our procedures - the police and I have been talking about this - and we'll look and see if anything needs to be changed," said Scoppetta.
Gaine is free without bail, and is due in a Queens courtroom in August.
As for the rubble at the restaurant, according to Josephine Napolitano, the co-owner of Luigi's: "Now I've got a hole, destruction, and a mess."
The owners of Luigi's say the most ironic twist of all is that during the botched burglary they had been watching a video called "Stupid Acts Caught on Tape."
"They were showing an idiot that was a thief, and how bright he was. He tried to escape, or tried to get in, by the chimney and was stuck in the chimney, and we were hysterical," Napolitano said. "Five minutes later, we get a phone call - the same thing is happening here. First I'm laughing. I'm saying, 'This can't really be happening. This is a joke.' And then, no, it wasn't a joke. It happened."
Firefighter, police clash over man stuck in chimney
By MICHAEL WEISSENSTEIN - Saturday, June 28, 2003 The Associated Press
NEW YORK (AP) - The elite of New York's police and fire departments clashed early Friday over a burglary suspect stuck in a Queens restaurant chimney.
Police and fire officials agree they were called to the restaurant in the Jackson Heights section just before 3 a.m. by a report of a man stuck on the roof. They found a man jammed inside the chimney.
Sometime later, officials agree, a decorated member of the fire department's Rescue Company 4 was pushed to the ground and arrested by members of the police Emergency Service Unit.
Official accounts diverge from there.
Police said Firefighter John Gaine pushed past two young officers guarding the entrance of Luigi's Italian Restaurant and defied police orders to stay outside as they searched for possible additional burglary suspects.
Fire officials, however, portrayed the arrest as unprovoked. They said police confronted Gaine inside the restaurant as he tried to gather information to help extract the man from the chimney. Police pushed Gaine over a set of rescue tools, injuring his knee, fire officials said.
Gaine was handcuffed, ticketed for alleged obstruction of government administration and released later in the day. Emergency responders eventually broke through a wall to remove suspect William Quinga, who was taken to Elmhurst Hospital in stable condition and faces charges of burglary, criminal trespass and possessing burglar's tools, police said.
Gaine's wife answered the phone at their home Friday and said that he did not want to discuss the incident.
Tension between city police and firefighters is far from unknown at emergency scenes, particularly among members of the departments' special rescue and tactical units.
The fire department calls in its rescue companies to pull off difficult lifesaving operations in high places, blazing buildings or confined spaces like the Jackson Heights chimney. ESU members are similarly equipped and trained.
Fire officials pointed out that the 15-year firefighter has been decorated for bravery. Gaine worked at the scenes of major emergencies such as the crash of American Airlines Flight 587 in Queens, and the Father's Day 2001 blaze that killed two members of his company.
Police pointed out that Gaine is an ex-cop who was fired from the NYPD in 1985 for allegedly participating in an assault in the parking lot of Yankee Stadium. Gaine was on probationary status because he had joined the department only about a year earlier.
Fire Commissioner Nicholas Scoppetta and Police Commissioner Ray Kelly discussed the incident at a private City Hall meeting Friday.
"Hopefully it was just some tempers going a little bit overboard when it was very hot," Mayor Michael Bloomberg said. "It is behavior that is not something that we will countenance in this city,"