Two Los Angeles firefighters, including a man who played a role in the 1993 baseball film “The Sandlot” have been charged with allegedly assaulting a man handing out candy to kids on Halloween, officials said Tuesday.
Mike Vitar, a firefighter who played the role of Benny "The Jet" Rodriguez in the film, and fellow firefighter Eric Carpenter and another man, Thomas Molnar, are charged with assault, according to a felony complaint.
The incident occurred near a Halloween party on Oct. 31 in northwest Los Angeles hosted by Carpenter, 38, the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office said.
The trio allegedly became angry after the victim, 22, who was visiting the neighborhood where he grew up, was walking down the street handing out candy to children, and they chased him down the street and attacked him, police and prosecutors said.
Carpenter also allegedly choked the victim after he was forced to the ground, the district attorney’s office said. In addition to assault, Carpenter is charged with personally inflicting great bodily injury, prosecutors said. The investigation was conducted by the Los Angeles Police Department's Robbery/Homicide Division.
Attorney Arthur Avazian, who represents Molnar, said he was still reviewing the case but said his client and the firefighters tried to restrain a man who would not leave and was trespassing.
"They believed he posed a danger to children in the area by trying to pass out candy against the consent of the adults," Avazian said. "These are really good people, two firefighters and my client who is successful businessman," Avazian said.
The Los Angeles Fire Department said Tuesday that both firefighters, who were off-duty at the time, have been placed on administrative leave with pay as the criminal case proceeds.
"The LAFD is aware of an incident involving two off-duty firefighters that is alleged to have occurred on Saturday, October 31st. The department has cooperated fully with law enforcement during the subsequent investigation," Los Angeles Fire Department spokesman Peter Sanders said.
Los Angeles attorney Michael A. Goldstein, who represents Carpenter, said his client is a career firefighter "who is the business of saving lives and helpings others" and urged the public not to rush to judgment.
Carpenter faces up to seven years in prison, and Vitar and Molnar face up to four years each in prison if convicted, the district attorney’s office said.
Carpenter was arrested on Nov. 17 and was released after posting $60,000 bail, according to jail records. Vitar, 36, and Molnar, 45, were arrested on Thursday, Dec. 3, and were released after posting $30,000 bail, according to the records.