Fire chiefs arrested, accused of sex assault cover-up
Told the firefighters that assaulted the rookie to "keep their mouths shut" and delete the video so no one would find out
The Dallas Morning News
ELLIS COUNTY, Texas — Top brass at the volunteer firehouse in Ellis County tried to cover up the sexual assault of a male firefighter by instructing the victim and five accused firemen not to talk about it, authorities said Thursday.
Chief Gavin Satterfield, 31, of Waxahachie and Assistant Chief Billy Getzendaner, 34, of Midlothian were arrested Thursday on felony charges of tampering with a witness, a first-degree felony.
Both suspects were released from the Ellis County Jail after posting bail.
In an emergency meeting Thursday evening, the board that oversees Emergency Services District 6 voted to suspend Satterfield and Getzendaner, KXAS-TV (NBC5) reported.
The meeting was called to discuss personnel changes to “preserve the integrity” of the department and ensure that fire protection service isn’t compromised, according to the meeting announcement.
Joseph R. Gallo, an attorney for Satterfield, denied his client did anything wrong.
“When criminal cases become high-profile, innocent people are often wrongfully caught up in the process,” Gallo told NBC5. “I now look forward to working with the Ellis County district attorney’s office to clear his name.”
Richard Rozier, a former president of the board, said he was disappointed to hear of the latest accusations against staff at the volunteer fire department.
“Quite frankly it’s concerning that people in a leadership role didn’t exercise better judgment if they knew about it,” Rozier said.
The new arrests came after five volunteer firemen were arrested Monday over allegations that they sexually assaulted a fellow fireman in January.
Five men face charges of aggravated sexual assault, a first-degree felony: Keith Edward Wisakowsky, 26, of Waxahachie; Casey Joe Stafford, 30, of Midlothian; Preston Thomas Peyrot, 19, of Waxahachie; Alec Chase Miller, 28, of Waxahachie; and Blake Jerold Tucker, 19, of Midlothian. Each faces five years to life in prison if convicted.
Wisakowsky’s girlfriend, 23-year-old Brittany Leanne Parten of Waxahachie, is accused of recording the assault on a cellphone. She is charged with improper photography or visual recording, a felony. Conviction carries a sentence of six months to two years in state jail.
All six are out of the Ellis County Jail after posting bail.
In the recording, the men could be heard “yelling and laughing with excitement” as the victim was held down and assaulted, court records state.
The men first tried to use a broomstick, but then one of them retrieved a sausage from the station’s refrigerator, authorities say. The humiliation continued after the assault, when someone stole the victim’s clothes and towel after he showered, the records say.
Satterfield and Getzendaner both knew about the assault before the victim reported it to authorities last week, according to arrest warrant affidavits.
In a meeting at the station, the two spoke with the victim and five suspects, and Getzendaner said he watched the video.
“This is funny [expletive],” he said, drawing laughter from the other men, according to the victim.
Getzendaner said the act could be considered a sexual assault and told the suspects that the victim “could do something to us,” court records state.
“But you’re not going to,” he added, looking at the man, the affidavit states.
Getzendaner then told the firemen to “keep their mouths shut” and delete the video because law enforcement officials would get involved if they found out about it, the affidavits state.
That’s when the victim realized the station’s leadership intended to let the incident pass without doling out any discipline, the records state.
Ellis County does not have its own fire department but relies on several municipal and volunteer departments for fire service.
ESD No. 6, which functions much like a city council, oversees and funds the volunteer fire department using taxpayer money. Getzendaner served on the board until last year, Rozier said.
With a third of its 26 members facing criminal charges, the district’s volunteer fire station was closed this week. WFAA-TV (Channel 8) reported that ESD No. 6 board members also voted Thursday to have Ellis County Fire Marshal Joe Stewart oversee the district’s remaining volunteer firefighthers.
Nearby fire stations are pitching in to respond to calls normally handled by the embattled department.
Board members will meet again Monday to discuss whether to hire or appoint an interim chief, NBC5 reported. They also will consider whether to suspend all operations at the department for a time.
A spokesman for the Texas Rangers said the agency’s investigation is continuing.
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