A Coaldale man is in critical condition after a beating, allegedly at the hands of borough firefighters, after a fundraising event Saturday.
Joseph Terry, 47, of 151 Third Street, is in St. Luke's Hospital Network, Bethlehem, and is recovering from a torn artery in his brain, a fractured cheekbone, and blurred vision in one eye, said his mother, Marie Terry, also of Coaldale.
"We're investigating it," Police Chief Tim Delaney said early Tuesday. "He caused a scene in the barroom and they asked him to leave. He left the bar without incident, then he was confronted by at least five members of the Coaldale Fire Department and there was an altercation."
Delaney said that Terry "ended up unconscious on Ridge Street. He was transported to St. Luke's Miners Memorial Hospital, Coaldale, then taken to St. Luke's in Bethlehem."
Delaney said he and Officer Joseph Krebs plan to travel to Bethlehem today to interview Terry and to take items to the State Police Crime lab to be analyzed.
"Right now, we're putting the pieces together, getting statements," Delaney said. "Then we'll sit down with (Schuylkill County District Attorney John Goodman) and see where we go from there with charges."
Delaney said police have been "knocking on doors on Ridge Street and taking statements."
But he cautioned the investigation will take more than a day or two.
"It's not like CSI. It's not going to be solved in 30 minutes," he said. "The crime lab itself will take time."
Delaney asked that anyone with any information or who saw anything to please contact the police department at (570) 645-3060.
Repeated efforts by the TIMES NEWS to reach Fire Chief Richard Marek were unsuccessful early Tuesday.
According to Terry's mother, Marie, and Coaldale resident Val Kaczmarczyk, the incident occurred after Joseph Terry left the VFW Post on East Ridge Street, which had held a dance to raise money for the department.
Marie Terry said she was told that her son was heading home and was 290 feet about a block and a half from the VFW when the incident happened.
"A neighbor heard yelling and pounding footsteps and ran out onto the porch," she said.
The neighbor told Terry he saw seven men punch her son, who fell to the ground. As he lay in the street, they began kicking him, Terry said. She said the witness told her that one of the men, allegedly Marek, said to "let him lay there, maybe he'll get hit by a car."
Terry said the attack "broke an artery in his head. They worked on him four hours," (at St. Luke's Miners Memorial Hospital, Coaldale) before transporting him to the Bethlehem facility, where a neurosurgeon was waiting.
Terry was at her son's bedside Sunday, where she and other family members tried to help him regain memory.
"He didn't know who he was," she said.
Terry said that as of now, she knows only what she has been told by neighbors who witnessed the incident.
"The thing that makes me so upset is that they were firemen," she said. "They are supposed to save lives, not take them."
She said the witnesses saw the men clearly, and even named names. Terry said she is also upset that police allegedly did nothing until the witnesses went to the police station.
Joseph Terry, who lives with his mother, is a mechanic who works on heavy machinery, she said.
"Neurosurgeons told us yesterday it will be a while before he could do that," she said.
Meanwhile, she asks for people to pray for his recovery as she waits for answers.
"As far as I know, he was coming from the VFW. They had just presented the fire company with some cash," she said.
Joseph Terry is a member of the organization, the Wild Mountain Hogs motorcycle group, which made a $200 donation to the fire company, said Kaczmarczyk, the group's treasurer. Terry is Sgt. of Arms for the group.
"We presented a $200 donation and everything was absolutely fine," Kaczmarczyk said.
Hours later, Kaczmarczyk got a phone call about the incident. He said he spoke with Joseph Terry on Monday, and he seemed in better spirits.
Kaczmarczyk said he fears witnesses will keep what they saw to themselves.
"People are afraid to come forward because they don't want any backlash from the fire department," he said. "We want to make sure justice is served. That's all we are asking for."