Video: Ind. FF seen shouting at and bumping men filming public incident

The South Bend Firefighter was suspended for five days without pay and ordered to complete anger management training

Jeff Parrott
South Bend Tribune, Ind.

SOUTH BEND, Ind. — The city's Board of Public Safety has suspended firefighter Lance Gunderson for five days without pay, ordered him to complete anger management training, and banned him from signing up for overtime for 30 days as punishment for his behavior toward two men who were filming firefighters and police during an incident.

Fire Chief Carl Buchanon recommended the discipline in a letter to the board dated four days after the June 13 incident, according to records The Tribune obtained through an Access to Public Records Act request.

"You bumped the citizen while shouting back and forth resulting in the citizen to use very coarse language with you, and needing to have a police officer ask you to step away," Buchanon wrote in a letter to Gunderson informing him of his recommendation to the board.

A group calling itself "Freedom 2 Film" posted a video of the encounter to YouTube, where it has received more than 24,000 views from people all over the world.

In the video, the two men with Freedom 2 Film are standing on the sidewalk on Duey Street, in the neighborhood southeast of Eddy Street Commons, filming firefighters as they treated a man sitting on the curb while police questioned him.

Nearly four minutes into the video, Gunderson, who appears to be standing between the Freedom 2 Film members and the firefighters in an attempt to block their view, turns around and walks up to one of them.

"Do you need my name or something?" Gunderson asks him. "Why are you taking my picture? You're taking my picture for some reason."

"Yeah, because you're in public," one of them replies.

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Gunderson can be seen bumping the man with his belly before a South Bend police officer, Sgt. Anthony Ieraci, approaches them and tells Gunderson, "Just go ahead and back up a little bit." Gunderson than turns away and walks back to where he had been standing near the man sitting at the curb.

Ieraci then starts asking the man shooting the video his name.

"He come right up to me, man," the recorder replied. "I didn't do (expletive) to him."

"I know, I saw," Ieraci says. "I'm asking you a question. What's your name?"

"I ain't giving you my name."

"Why not? Mine is Sgt. Ieraci."

"I don't have to give you my name."

"I know that," Ieraci says.

"I'm just standing here."

"Let me explain something to you," Ieraci says. "You do not have to give me your name. You have not broken the law. But I'm asking you to give me (your) name."

The two men continue refusing to give Ieraci their names, and after a few moments, Ieraci also walks away from the men.

The video later shows the Freedom 2 Film members walking into the fire department's Central Station to file a complaint against Gunderson. They are met by Assistant Chief Todd Skwarcan, who had served as the department's interim chief from October 2019 to April 2020.

The men play the video for Skwarcan.

"Well you're cussing at him, OK," Skwarcan says.

"Well because he came up and got in my personal space," the F2F member replies. "I have it on body cam as well. He belly bumps me."

"Right," Skwarcan says. "Why? If I can ask. You're just watching guys watching guys? And then getting in fights with them?"

"Getting in fights? Who picked a fight?" the other F2F member asks Skwarcan. "We're done here."

"You're cussing at him and he's just asking you what you're doing," Skwarcan says as the men walk out.

Buchanon determined, and the board agreed, that Gunderson had violated a department rule of conduct that prohibits "discourteous conduct towards the public and other personnel," the rule states. "Firefighters shall be tactful, in control of their tempers, and exercise patience and discretion."

In his letter to the board, Buchanon wrote that his discipline recommendation was "progressive" because Gunderson had been disciplined before under a previous chief. Buchanon did not elaborate, and he did not immediately return a message seeking comment.

Gunderson, who works out of Station 3 on McKinley Avenue, did not immediately return a message seeking comment.


(c)2021 the South Bend Tribune (South Bend, Ind.)

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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