AP NEWS

Man choked by LA firefighter to get $7.4 million

February 7, 2019

LOS ANGELES (AP) — A man who was choked unconscious by an off-duty Los Angeles firefighter who saw him handing out Halloween candy to children will receive $7.4 million to settle a lawsuit, his attorney announced Wednesday.

Samuel Chang suffered a traumatic brain injury, nearly died and still has medical problems from the 2015 attack that was captured on video, attorney David Ring said.

Chang, then 22, was visiting his grandmother in the Chatsworth area and was outside, handing out candy on Halloween night, when he was confronted by five men, including two off-duty firefighters, authorities said.

The men were concerned about a stranger who was passing out candy, refused to go away and was acting suspiciously, their attorneys said after the attack.

Video from Chang’s iPhone showed the men following him as he walked away and repeatedly accusing him of trying to give away drugged candy.

Video shot by a bystander showed the group surrounding Chang. Video and court records indicate that firefighter Eric Carpenter, who lived nearby, placed Chang in a chokehold for six minutes while he struggled and the other men held him down, the Los Angeles Times reported.

When he went limp, his attackers tried to revive him, but he was hospitalized for several weeks. Chang later told the Times that he still suffers from chronic headaches and has trouble reading and processing information.

Carpenter was charged with felony assault in 2017 and could have faced up to seven years in prison. But he pleaded no contest to misdemeanor assault. The other off-duty firefighter, Michael Anthony Vitar — a former child actor known for appearing in “The Sandlot” and two “Mighty Ducks” movies — and a neighbor of Carpenter’s pleaded no contest to misdemeanor battery. Two other men weren’t criminally charged.

None of the men served jail time. The firefighters kept their jobs, although each was suspended for six months without pay.

Chang’s 2017 lawsuit alleged assault, battery, false imprisonment, negligence and intentional infliction of emotional distress.

“Samuel was brutally beaten by these thugs,” Ring said in a statement Wednesday. “The civil settlement provides him with some justice for what he endured. Yet we remain incredibly disappointed that the district attorney’s office failed to hold the defendants accountable for this horrific attack.”

The lawsuit was dismissed on Monday after the settlement, and the five men didn’t acknowledge any wrongdoing, Ring said.

Carpenter’s attorney for the lawsuit, Jeffrey Zinder, declined to comment Wednesday, saying that the lawsuit settlement was confidential.

However, Carpenter’s attorney in the criminal case, Michael A. Goldstein, said he spoke to the firefighter Wednesday.

“This has been a very traumatic and trying time for both Mr. Carpenter and his family. He would prefer to put all of this behind him,” Goldstein said. “He wishes Mr. Chang the best in all his future endeavors.”