Updated: 05-07-2003 05:40:58 PM

Alabama Firefighter Injured By Teen Prankster

Heather Caspi
Firehouse.Com News

A Birmingham firefighter suffered a serious head injury Sunday while restraining a teenager with a video camera and a baseball bat.

Firefighter Travis Brown, 31, approached the suspect from behind as he advanced on a police officer and the two fell backward onto the pavement. Brown hit his head and broke his skull from his left ear to his sinuses, said Oneonta Fire Chief Charles Montgomery. Brown is now suffering from vertigo and deafness in his left ear. They don't know if the deafness is permanent or when, if ever, he will be able to return to duty, the chief said.

Montgomery said Brown was in good spirits and expected to be discharged from University Hospital in Birmingham this week, but will probably face a long recuperation. He doesn't remember anything about what happened, and for a short time he didn't recognize people he'd known for years.

"Travis probably doesn't realize how many friends he has. The phone's been ringing off the hook ever since he got hurt," Montgomery said. "We're just hoping he can come back to work."

Police Chief James Chapman said the incident began Sunday at about 5 a.m. when a newspaper delivery person called 911 to report a person lying in the street.

"When the officer got on scene, before the medics arrived, he made several commands to him to see if he was conscious. He got no response," Chapman said. When the firefighters pulled up, "He jumped up and we saw that he had a video camera in one hand and a baseball bat in the other," Chapman said. The 17-year-old then began walking toward the police officer, ignoring orders to drop the bat.

"The officer pulled a gun and said 'Stop or I'll have to shoot,'" Montgomery said. "He told him four times." When the suspect kept advancing, Brown came up from behind and immobilized him.

Montgomery said the teenager's plan was to lay in the road until somebody got out of their car to check on him, and then scare them. Chapman said officials aren't sure what his intentions were, but said the teen told them that he was going to make a video to send to the MTV stunt show "Jackass."

"He made a remark to the effect that this was just a prank, 'I was trying to get some video for Jackass,'" Chapman said. The camera was not running during the teen's encounter with police and firefighters.

Chapman said the suspect, whose identity is being withheld because he is a minor, has been charged with second degree assault, resisting arrest, failure to obey a police officer, as well as being under the influence while under the age of 21. He is in the custody of his parents.

Brown has been a full time firefighter with the Oneonta Fire Department for nine years and also works part-time at the Palmerdale Fire Department. Has a wife and two children, ages two and four. Montgomery said Brown is one of the best firefighters he's ever had. "He's as dedicated as any I've ever known," he said.

The fire chief added that he has never dealt with such a pointless incident. "After all these years I still get surprised," he said.