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Steelers

Charged firefighter was supposed to be working

| Tuesday, Oct. 17, 2006

A veteran Pittsburgh firefighter called off sick from a regularly scheduled shift Sunday to attend a Steelers game at Heinz Field where he was arrested for exposing himself and fighting with police, Fire Chief Michael Huss said today.

Lt. Martin W. Sanders Jr., 39, of Westwood, was supposed to be working a 12-hour shift Sunday at the Virginia Avenue fire station in Mt. Washington, but he called in sick before the 1 p.m. game and his replacement was paid about $300 for an overtime shift, Huss said.

"We're very disappointed about this incident," Huss said. "It's embarrassing. And it doesn't represent the fire department as a whole."

Huss suspended Sanders without pay while he conducts an internal investigation. Sanders has been a city firefighter since 1997 and a lieutenant since 2004. He is paid a base salary of $54,565.

Sanders exposed himself to women at a Heinz Field concession stand about 6 p.m. Sunday, according to a police affidavit. Security guards tried to eject Sanders and several companions from the stadium, but Sanders refused to leave, the affidavit said.

When police arrived, Sanders punched a security guard in the face when the guard asked Sanders for identification. Sanders hit a second guard in the groin. As police Officers Edward Dent and Vonzale Boose tried to cuff him, Sanders, who is white, shouted a racial slur at Dent, who is black, and kicked him in the knee, according to a police report. Once handcuffed, Sanders refused to stand and tried to head-butt another officer, who subdued Sanders with a Taser.

Sanders was taken to Allegheny General Hospital, North Side as a precaution after being stunned twice by officers. At the hospital, Officer Adam A. Turk repeatedly ordered Sanders to turn off his cell phone. Sanders swore at the officer and punched him in the eye, according to the police report.

No one answered the door today at Sanders' Westwood home. A Steelers sign that said "Let's go Black and Gold -- Back to Back" was taped to the home's front window.

The local firefighters union will not defend Sanders, said its president, Joe King.

"The union has nothing to do with this," King said. "The union isn't going to do anything."

King declined to answer questions about whether Sanders broke the city's rules on sick leave.

According to the Firefighter Local No. 1 Web site, Sanders is listed as a member of the union's Quint Committee. In April, the committee evaluated a newly purchased Quint, which is a combination water pumper and ladder truck.

Steelers spokesman Dave Lockett said the team could revoke the personal seat license attached to Sanders' ticket. He didn't know whether Sanders is the license holder.

Police charged Sanders with three counts of simple assault, two counts of aggravated assault, indecent exposure, resisting arrest and disorderly conduct. He was arraigned Monday in City Court and later posted bail. He faces a preliminary hearing Oct. 25.

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