The City of High Springs has released police reports detailing the events and accusations that prompted firefighters Kyle Lewis and Michael Steele to resign last week.
The reports tell of vulgar, harassing behavior that allegedly took place behind closed doors at the fire department.
While Lewis, 26, and Steele, 28, said it’s a game fashioned after a scene in a movie they all play, according to others it’s gone too far.
On Oct. 1, the High Springs Police Department (HSPD) responded to a call from Fire Chief Verne Riggall. A ‘suspicious incident’ report based on the complaint of a third firefighter was filed. The firefighter, who said he had fallen asleep on the fire station couch, woke up and logged on to his personal laptop to find a new photo on the desktop.
It was a picture of a man’s genitalia being exposed next to his head as he lay asleep on the couch.
At this time, Alachua County Today is withholding the name of the firefighter who filed the complaint leading to the investigation.
Like the two he accused, he has not returned to work since crying foul, Riggall said.
According to city policy and the Florida Firefighters Bill of Rights, he is on administrative leave with pay pending the results of the ongoing administrative investigation by the High Springs Police Department.
When he reported the incident, he named Steele and Lewis as the culprits, and Riggall subsequently placed them both on immediate suspension pending the investigation.
According to HSPD, Steele admitted to being the exhibitionist in the photo, and Lewis said he was the one who took it, but they insisted Steele never actually touched the other man’s head or neck.
After the initial complaint, another firefighter came forward saying he’d been the victim of a similar incident involving Steele and Lewis.
Both of them told police they did not remember what the second accuser was talking about.
On Oct. 4 after lodging the complaint, the firefighter said the alleged incident happened several months ago, and he signed a form indicating “intent not to prosecute.”
Lewis and Steele resigned Oct. 19.
Lewis was a full-time firefighter, and he had worked for the City of High Springs for about three years, Riggall said.
Steele started as a volunteer at the department, and became a part-time employee about three years ago. He is still a full-time employee with Gainesville Fire Rescue (GFR).
According to the City of Gainesville human resources office, he was hired there in February 2007.
Despite growing media coverage about the situation, when GFR Deputy Chief Tim Hayes was contacted for comment on the issue, he said he hadn’t heard anything about it.
He said had he known about it sooner, he would already be investigating whether Steele should face any consequences as a City of Gainesville employee.
But Hayes did say it was surprising to hear this about Steele, who he said is nothing like that when he’s on duty at GFR.
“He’s a pretty quiet guy.”
Though the police reports are public record, the full details from the administrative investigation won’t be released until the matter is closed.
Riggall said he anticipates a 30-day window until the investigation should be concluded, but that could change.
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