Los Angeles Captains Awarded in Hazing Follow-Up Case

Two white Los Angeles city fire captains were collectively awarded more than $1.6 million Monday.

However, Zappia told jurors that Tohill and another firefighter bought the dog food and brought it back to the station, and that the prank occurred in the presence of both captains. Burton then decided to keep it in-house and said it was because Pierce initially wanted it that way, according to Zappia.

"They blame Tennie Pierce, but they won't accept responsibility for what they did," Zappia said.

Rather than be terminated or face deserved demotions, Tohill and Burton have in recent years received good reviews for their work and make about $230,000 annually in total wages and compensation, Zappia said.

The LAFD hierarchy acted appropriately when deciding who should be punished and how severely, he said.

Zappia urged jurors to reject the captains' racial claims, noting that both Deputy Chief Andrew Foxand then-Chief William Bamattre, who decided their suspensions, also are white.

Burton, who is now assigned to a station in Wilmington and still lives in Dana Point, said he plans to retire next January. Tohill is now a station commander in Eagle Rock. The Agua Dulce resident said he is scheduled to retire in four years.

As part of the settlement reached with Pierce last September, he resigned from the Los Angeles Fire Department and dismissed all claims against the city. He had been on unpaid leave since Dec. 28, 2005.

In 2006, the Los Angeles City Council approved a $2.7 million settlement for Pierce, but the deal was vetoed by Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa when photos surfaced of the firefighter participating in hazing activities.

Persistent allegations of racism within the department resurfaced in January 2006, when City Controller Laura Chick and the city's Personnel Department released audits documenting inappropriate behavior, despite efforts to clean up the agency a dozen years earlier.

The audits and the Pierce case prompted Bamattre to step down in early 2007.

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