Dog-killing firefighter fired
He also threatened female police officer, internal report says
Friday, July 17, 2009 3:11 AM
By Bruce Cadwallader
THE COLUMBUS DISPATCH
David Santuomo, 43, has 10 days to appeal his termination by the city safety director.
The Columbus firefighter who executed his two dogs and lied to investigators has 10 days to appeal after he was fired yesterday by the city safety director.
David Santuomo, 43, is the first firefighter to be fired by the city since 2006 and only the 10th during the past two decades.
Chief Ned Pettus Jr. recommended termination last week, saying that Santuomo's actions brought "disrepute" to the Fire Division. He found Santuomo guilty of five departmental charges of dishonesty, improper behavior, insubordination and abusive or violent behavior.
Santuomo, a firefighter since 1996, "violated the Firefighters Oath by committing a criminal act that outraged the citizens of Columbus and surrounding counties," Pettus said in his recommendation to Safety Director Mitchell Brown.
Only the safety director can fire police officers and firefighters under the city charter. Brown fired him without comment.
The internal-affairs report obtained by The Dispatch and WBNS-TV (Channel 10) showed that Santuomo alienated colleagues by sending a text message to a fellow firefighter that threatened a female Columbus police officer.
He thought she had turned him in to the Capital Area Humane Society, which sparked the investigation that led to Santuomo pleading guilty to animal-cruelty charges last month.
The message read, "U realize that there is a funeral in CPD's future."
According to the report and court documents, the humane society received an anonymous call about the dog killings.
Santuomo shot the dogs in the basement of his home on Essington Drive on the Northwest Side because he didn't want to pay boarding costs while he and his girlfriend went on a cruise. He admitted to tying the dogs to a pipe and shooting them 11 times on Dec. 3.
He dumped the bodies in a trash bin behind the Smoky Row Road firehouse where he worked, then bragged about it.
Investigators said Santuomo initially told them that he killed the dogs because he feared that they had ingested antifreeze. He changed his story after a necropsy showed that the dogs died of gunshot wounds.
Reached on his cell phone yesterday, Santuomo declined to comment.
At least 15 firefighters and police officers were questioned during the investigation, according to Fire Division memos.
An investigation into whether firefighters at the station house should have spoken up earlier is ongoing, a division spokesman said yesterday.
The internal-affairs report documents other text messages that Santuomo sent to colleagues and others.
One described the scene in his basement: "Well, that sucked! Rose took 2 in the head n 1 in the heart. Teddy wouldn't (go down). Had 2 hit 8 times. I'm gonna get drunk."
A message from a firefighter implied that Santuomo should use a mental-health defense and admit to forgetting to take his antidepressant medication.
He responded, "I won't get fired. I may have 2 retire with mental disability. That is 100% pay."
Thousands called for Santuomo's firing in e-mails, letters and phone calls to The Dispatch and the city.
Jason Pappas, vice president of the Fraternal Order of Police Capital City Lodge No. 9, said Santuomo should be prosecuted for threatening a police officer.
Assistant Franklin County Prosecutor Heather Robinson said the officer had overhead a conversation about the dogs but never received the threat directly.
After a seven-month investigation, Santuomo pleaded guilty June 25 to two counts of animal cruelty and one count of possessing a criminal tool. He was sentenced to 90 days in jail and fined $4,650.
Municipal Judge Harland H. Hale wrote in a sentencing memo on June 29 that Santuomo could serve his 90-day sentence in 10-day stints beginning in September but only if he was still employed.
Santuomo was scheduled to meet with a probation officer today to learn when he must report to jail and when he will begin his 200 hours of community service. He also was to provide a written apology to the citizens of Columbus.
Santuomo's personnel file shows several reprimands for being late to work and two for improper remarks made on fire-dispatching radios.