S.C. Fire Chief Arrested after Scuffle with Cops at Crash

The West Chester fire chief and his brother spent a night behind bars.

Feb. 17--CHESTER -- The West Chester Volunteer Fire Department chief and his brother spent Saturday night in the Chester County jail after being arrested by sheriff's deputies following a scuffle with the sheriff and other officers at the scene of an overturned truck Friday afternoon.

Chief Andy Martin, 57, and Tommy Martin, 61, were arrested at their homes at about 8 p.m. Saturday, kept in jail overnight and released on personal recognizance bonds after appearing before Magistrate Dianne Moore Sunday morning, police and court records show.

Police allege the firefighters yelled obscenities at Chester County Sheriff Alex Underwood and other officers and pushed them in a dispute over traffic control at the wreck scene.

Arrest warrants against Tommy Martin allege he pushed Sheriff Alex Underwood, and pushed and attempted to tackle Capt. Robert Sprouse in the incident along S.C. 9 in a spot dubbed "Deadman's Curve." The warrant says Tommy Martin, a volunteer firefighter for 43 years, was not acting in self defense. He faces two counts of assault.

Arrest warrants against Andy Martin allege he was "acting in a disorderly manner," and pushed Capt. Sprouse as deputies attempted to remove him from the wreck scene. He was charged with assault and disorderly conduct.

Efforts to reach Underwood have been unsuccessful Monday morning. A sheriff's office spokesman declined to comment. Efforts to reach Tommy Martin have been unsuccessful.

Andy Martin told The Herald Monday morning that he was upset that he had been arrested after the dispute over deputies' providing traffic control at the wreck scene, then leaving before senior deputies and the sheriff himself arrived. He called the way the incident was handled by police "a fiasco" and "a shame."

"I have volunteered out here for 40 years," Andy Martin said. "I was the incident commander. I have devoted my whole adult life to the fire service."

Andy Martin said he was handcuffed for 10 minutes at the scene before being arrested the next night.

Andy Martin acknowledged to The Herald that he had made a statement over emergency radio about the upcoming election after the deputies who first responded to the accident had left the scene. The comments were made before Sheriff Alex Underwood and other top deputies arrived on the scene.

"I do not deny saying it," Andy Martin said. "I am the one who said it."

Andy Martin said deputies "overstepped their bounds," arresting him at home "like a hardened criminal."

Martin said he has talked to a lawyer but has not yet hired one.

Underwood and several senior deputies arrived at the scene after 4 p.m. Friday. An argument started between the two firefighters and deputies over who was responsible for traffic control and why the first deputies at the scene did not stay to direct traffic, according to the sheriff's report.

Highway Patrol troopers told the firefighters they would shut down the highway only after a wrecker arrived, according to the sheriff's report. During the meeting at the scene between law enforcement and fire officials, the report states, Tommy Martin and Andy Martin "came up and began to complain" as sheriff's officials explained why the first officers left the scene.

"At this time," the report reads, "Thomas Martin became angry with Maj. (Randy) Marsh, and the talking became very heated."

The firefighters then brought up the ongoing court battle between Chester County and the Sheriff's Office over control of emergency 911 dispatch, the report states, and Andy Martin made statements about "election time." Underwood, elected sheriff in 2012, will be up for election again in 2016.

The incident "was becoming heated," the report states, and after a state trooper told the firefighters again that the road would be shut down only when a wrecker arrived, Tommy Martin "pushed Sheriff Underwood with his right arm."

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