The Battle of the Badges is a draw.
John Gaine, the firefighter who scuffled with a police officer at a Jackson Heights crime scene earlier this summer, will not be charged, Queens District Attorney Richard Brown said Friday.
"It appears that both police officers and firefighters present were acting in good faith - trying to do their duty as they saw it," said Brown in a statement. "As is not uncommon, in the early minutes of unfolding situations, no one person or agency had full knowledge of the entire situation."
Gaine had been charged with harassment and obstructing governmental administration after both firefighters and police officers responded to the scene of an attempted burglary at an Italian restaurant. The alleged robber had tried to break in to the building via the chimney and become stuck, police said.
The statement came only one business day before Gaine was scheduled to appear in State Supreme Court in Kew Gardens. Prosecutors interviewed seven firefighters and eight police officers and reviewed recordings of radio transmissions before deciding not to charge Gaine, the DA's office said.
As bizarre as the dispute was the incident that triggered it. Police said William Quinga, a 22-year-old Jamaica man, had tried to rob Luigi's Italian Restaurant on 37th Avenue in Jackson Heights by crawling down a round metal chimney that tapered to a diameter of less than one foot. Neighbors heard his cries for help and called 911.
Police eventually had to extract Quinga through an interior wall. He was treated for minor injuries at Elmhurst Hospital Center and arrested.
It was the first of two Battles of the Badges in Queens in as many weeks. On July 9, a Fire Department water rescue unit clashed with the NYPD Harbor Patrol after a man fell into Newtown Creek in Long Island City. During the operation, police lowered a heavy line into the water that hit and momentarily disoriented a Fire Department diver.
Reach reporter Alex Ginsberg by e-mail at Timesledger@aol.com or call 718-229-0300, Ext. 157.
©2003 Community News Group
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