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Calif. fire captain, terminated after 911 call that led to patient’s death, wins job back

Capt. Jeffrey Scott Klein was in charge of a 2020 medical response that led to the death of a patient who was put in a prone position


Image/Sacramento Fire Department

By Theresa Clift

The Sacramento Bee

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — A terminated Sacramento Fire Department captain, in charge of a 2020 medical response that led to the death of a Black man, has won his job back.

In June 2022, the city fired Jeffrey Scott Klein, who, along with four other firefighters, stood by while police officers placed a Black man face down in a dangerous position that led to his death.

Klein, a member of the Sacramento Area Firefighters Union Local 522, appealed the decision. Earlier this month an arbitrator decided he gets his job back, city spokesman Tim Swanson said.

The city paid Klein $138,000 in paid leave during the investigation. The city will also pay Klein additional salary and benefits — an amount that has not yet been determined, Swanson said.

Klein will return to the city at his former rank of captain. At the time of the 2020 incident, Klein’s total annual pay was $150,745, according to Transparent California, a website that tracks the salaries of public employees.

The only remaining discipline left from the incident will be a 240-hour unpaid suspension, which Klein already served.

Klein did not immediately respond to messages seeking comment for this story.

In February 2020 , Reginald “Reggie” Payne, 48, was suffering a diabetic emergency and acting erratic, so Harriett Jefferson, his mother, called 911. When firefighters arrived at the home, led by Klein, they determined they were unable to treat him, so they called three police officers to restrain him first. The officers, one of whom referred to Payne as a “big boy,” held him face down in the prone position, causing him to go into cardiac arrest, ultimately causing his death, according to the coroner’s report.

Firefighters Sean Holleman, Clinton Simons, Scott Caravalho and Eric Munson were also on the call. All are currently still employed by the department except Munson, Swanson said. Officers John Helmich, David Mower, and Kevin Moorman, who were all on the call, are all still employed by the police department.

Payne’s family in February 2022 filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the city, which is ongoing. In addition to monetary damages, the lawsuit seeks an injunction to require police officers, firefighters and paramedics not to use “improper restraints” such as the prone position in emergency medical situations in the future. It also seeks for the city to require officers to attend racial bias training and create a mechanism to discipline officers who engage in racial discrimination.

The family, through its attorney Joseph Nicholson declined comment for this story. But earlier this year the family told The Bee they did not want Klein to get his job back, and wanted the additional officers and firefighters to be disciplined.

“They hogtied my brother,” Payne’s sister Janine Jefferson told The Bee earlier this year. “Legs and arms shackled together. They did it in the comforts of my parents’ house, while my parents were there. How are they treating people on the streets?”

The trial is currently set for February.

©2023 The Sacramento Bee.


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