By Elizabeth Perry
Stowe Fire Chief Matthew Chapman has pleaded guilty to a lesser charge in an assault case against another firefighter.
The attack on Presston Volunteer Firefighter Joe DeFazio occurred during a McKees Rocks residential fire at an Olivia Street home on Dec. 4, 2022.
Initially, Chapman was charged with simple assault and harassment. When the case went before Magistrate Bruce Boni on Jan. 31, Chapman was represented by Brad Matta, Stowe Township solicitor. Matta said he was performing the work pro bono for the fire chief.
Ultimately, the simple assault charge was dropped in exchange for Chapman’s plea to a charge of summary harassment. Chapman is expected to pay a fine.
At the magistrate office in McKees Rocks, DeFazio shared some details on the event. He stated the disagreement had to do with inter-departmental politics which ultimately impeded the suppression of a fire.
A representative from the Stowe Township Volunteer Fire Department declined to comment about the matter.
DeFazio said after arriving on the scene, Presston’s truck was blocking traffic, and he wanted to move it once other companies came on the scene. DeFazio had shut off water to the truck, but Stowe firefighters were beginning to attach their hoses to the Presston truck.
“I was concerned about getting the line in service,” DeFazio said.
DeFazio said he tried to resolve the situation with Stowe Firefighter Brandon Chapman, then was told to take it up the chain of command to the chief.
DeFazio said he tried to explain the situation but the discussion devolved and the men exchanged heated words. When DeFazio walked away, police at the scene said Chief Chapman jumped out of his vehicle, followed DeFazio, and struck him.
According to police, DeFazio sustained an injury to his left eye during the December altercation, which lasted less than 30 seconds before police intervened and separated the two men. It is unclear if Chapman suffered any injury at the time.
Matta said previously the Stowe Township Board of Commissioners would likely retain Chapman in his position after the resolution of the matter.
Independent Hose Company No. 5, also known as the Presston Volunteer Fire Department, officially became McKees Rocks Borough’s primary fire service as of Jan. 10. DD