A firefighter has been terminated over allegations that, while drunk, he tried to hit two employees of a west Fort Worth bar with his pickup after they refused him service and tried to prevent him from driving.
Jason Langford, who was arrested on charges of driving while intoxicated and aggravated assault with a deadly weapon in January, was indefinitely suspended effective Friday, according to a disciplinary letter obtained by the Star-Telegram.
The letter, signed by Fire Chief Rudy Jackson, acknowledges that Langford had no previous record of discipline and has since addressed some of the personal problems that led to the incident.
But it states, “this department cannot and will not retain an employee that is believed to have purposely and knowingly attempted to intimidate, maim or kill good Samaritans whose only goal was to protect him and others.”
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Langford, 37, who has been with the department for over nine years, will appeal his firing, said his attorney, Jim Lane.
Lane said a plea deal with prosecutors in the criminal case is in the works.
“We have worked out an agreement with the district attorney’s office, but we’ve not pled it so I’m not going to disclose what it is,” Lane said.
The disciplinary letter indicates that, as part of the plea deal, Langford intends to plead guilty to DWI and deadly conduct, both misdemeanor charges.
A disclosure filed by prosecutors in March and included in Langford’s criminal case file indicates that James Pendleton, one of three alleged victims listed in the police report, told prosecutors that while Langford was very intoxicated that night, he doesn’t believe the firefighter was intentionally trying to hit him or other staff.
Pendleton told the prosecutor that he believes Langford did what he did “more out of panic than anything else” and that he wasn’t “sure he even saw us.”
He also said he had plenty of time to move out of Langford’s way, the disclosure notice states.
Langford is charged with two counts of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon in connection with two of the bar employees. Pendleton is not among the alleged victims, court records show.
Langford was placed on restricted duty after his arrest due to the “serious nature of the charges,” the disciplinary letter says.
In a written statement to the department’s Office of Professional Standards, which conducts internal investigations of such matters, Langford admitted he had been drinking throughout the day at home and went alone to the Landmark Bar at 3008 Bledsoe St.
Video footage inside the lounge shows Langford staggering and sitting at the bar.
Though Langford told internal investigators he was not given a drink at the bar, the video showed that he requested and was given a beer.
“Within minutes of receiving the beer, employees of the Magnolia Motor Lounge surmised that Firefighter Langford was heavily intoxicated and decided to both cut him off from further drinks and take away the drink he had been given earlier,” the letter states.
Both the video and witness statements showed Langford became upset that he was cut off and began to curse and berate the bartender, the letter states.
Staff members offered to call Langford a taxi, but he declined. He also declined their requests that he give them his keys, the letter stated, prompting staff to call for police.
‘He tried to run us over’
According to the letter, Langford followed a staff member when the employee walked outside to call 911. In a recording of that 911 call, investigators could hear staff pleading with Langford to give over his keys.
“I’m following you to make sure you don’t get in your car, sir — you’re intoxicated,” a staff member could be heard saying.
The staff member then told the 911 dispatcher, “Oh, he’s coming after me right now.” Investigators believe that an angry Langford had made an “aggressive move” toward the employees trying to stop him.
The letter states that despite their efforts, Langford got in and started his Toyota pickup. Video surveillance then showed him making a deliberate turn to the right toward the staff members who had been trying to stop him.
“When asked, the lounge staff clearly stated and truly believes that Firefighter Langford intended to run them over with his Toyota truck,” the letter states. “On 911 call audio, one can clearly hear the staff comment, ‘He’s threatening us with his vehicle. He tried to run us over.’”
The letter states Langford then came to a quick stop, backed his pickup up, and parked for about 20 seconds before driving out of the parking area.
According to a Fort Worth police report, an officer responding to the call spotted the pickup on University Drive and conducted a “high-risk” traffic stop of the truck.
The report states Langford told the officer that he had had only three beers and refused to consent to a breath or blood test. A search warrant was then obtained for a sample of his blood, the report states.
Blood tests later revealed Langford had a blood alcohol level of 0.205 — more than two and a half times the legal limit of 0.08.
In the letter, investigators also accused Langford of being untruthful during the internal investigation.
In a March 26 interview with department officials, the letter states, Langford was “very vague” regarding details of that night and had trouble recalling some of the events, the disciplinary letter states.
When Assistant Chief David Coble told Langford that investigators had obtained video of that night and offered Langford the chance to tell the truth concerning his actions that evening, Langford declined to change his statement.
“To the best of my recollections, that’s how I remember the incident,” he allegedly said, according to the letter.
“While Firefighter Langford readily admits to being heavily intoxicated on said evening, his versions of events do not match obtained evidence and witness statements,” the letter states. “Ultimately, I believe that Firefighter Langford lied during this investigation to cover up his true actions on said evening.”
Deanna Boyd, 817-390-7655