March 28, 2014

Fort Worth firefighter fired after public intoxication arrest

McKinney police arrested Patrick Burls for public intoxication and resisting arrest in September.

A Fort Worth firefighter who officials say lied repeatedly about his arrest for public intoxication and resisting arrest in McKinney, then blamed his actions on alcohol, has been fired.

Patrick J. Burls’ termination took effect Wednesday, according to documents filed with the Civil Service Commission.

Burls, who could not be reached for comment Friday, has appealed.

His advocate, Rafael Torres with the Texas State Association of Fire Fighters, declined to comment Friday.

According to the disciplinary letter signed by Fire Chief Rudy Jackson, Burls, 32, was suspended in December 2012 after being indicted on a felony burglary charge out of Lancaster. (That charge, according to the letter, was later reduced to criminal trespassing. Burls pleaded no contest and received probation.)

While on suspension, Burls was arrested again, this time by McKinney police on Sept. 27 on allegations of public intoxication and resisting arrest.

In a written statement to Fort Worth fire officials, Burls described the events leading up to his arrest as follows:

He had been drinking at a bar before driving to his girlfriend’s house. While traveling on an expressway service road, he hit a deep hole, damaging his car and forcing him to pull over at a gas station.

While waiting for his girlfriend to pick him up, he said, a McKinney police officer arrived. Burls said he was walking toward the officer when he saw one of his car’s tires roll across the road.

“I verbally got the officer’s attention and ran to her and told her that was the tire to my car,” he wrote.

He said that the officer told him to sit in the back of her patrol car and that he was under arrest. He said that when he turned around to ask why, the officer grabbed his arm and twisted it behind his back.

“Three or four other officers then joined her and then they slammed me to the ground on my head and [started] punching me in the face and slamming my head on the ground,” he wrote.

Conflicting stories

The arresting officer’s account and video taken from her car contradicted Burls’ story, the disciplinary letter says.

The officer said she was on patrol when she saw Burls and an older woman standing in the roadway, looking at a rim and tire.

Burls told the officer that he had not been driving the vehicle but was simply checking on the woman. He told the officer that he was walking from a nearby Hooters after getting into an argument with his girlfriend.

Police, however, found that Burls had the keys to the damaged vehicle and that an envelope inside the car was addressed to him.

Noting that Burls had slurred speech, smelled strongly of alcohol and was unsteady, the officer began to arrest him on suspicion of public intoxication.

“Mr. Burls continuously pushed and pulled in an attempt to break free from the officers. After several seconds, this officer was finally able to place a handcuff on Mr. Burls’ right arm. As he continued to struggle, at one point, he pushed back at the officer, which caused the other handcuff to catch this officer’s left bicep causing a laceration and large contusion,” the letter states.

‘Unacceptable behavior’

When confronted in a December meeting about the officer’s account and the video recording, Burls told fire officials “that’s my recollection” and “I don’t remember very well.”

He told a deputy chief that he had consumed at least four drinks before the arrest.

“Firefighter Burls subsequently admitted to being intoxicated while driving and blamed the ‘alcohol in my system’ for the discrepancies in his account of what occurred prior to his arrest,” the letter says.

“When asked why he told the police officer it was not his vehicle, Burls stated, ‘I can’t explain my actions because of the alcohol that I had in my system … I don’t know why I told them that.’ ”

The letter accused Burls of putting himself and others in jeopardy by driving while intoxicated.

“This type of unacceptable behavior by a firefighter on the Fort Worth Fire Department cannot be tolerated,” the letter says.

Collin County court records show that Burls was sentenced to 18 months’ deferred-adjudication probation March 21 over the resisting-arrest charge.

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