Harassment Charge Against Former Barrhaven Firefighter Dropped By Judge

By Charlie Senack

A harassment charge has been dropped against a former Barrhaven firefighter who allegedly attacked and made a former non-binary colleague feel unsafe at Half Moon Bay’s Station 47.

Justice Mitchell Hoffman, who is overseeing the case, dismissed the charge against Eric Einagel after recommendations from Crown prosecutors. A negligence charge against Greg Wright, the station’s captain, has also been dismissed. The reason why is unclear.

Einagel continues to face two charges for allegedly assaulting and choking Ash Weaver, who said they were left fearing for their life after the Sept. 14, 2022 incident.

Weaver hasn’t returned to work since, but has run in multiple marathons, according to lawyers. Wright still faces one charge of allegedly encouraging the rookie firefighter not to report the incident.

A longtime alley of the LGBTQ community

On May 27, 39-year-old Einagel took to the stand for the first time in the weeks-long trial. The former firefighter who was fired described himself as an “ally” to the LGBTQ community and said he and Weaver were only playing around when the incident occurred.

According to Einagel, chaos broke loose in the fire station kitchen after he agreed to do the dishes. When he went to start washing, Weaver was already there instead.

When Einagel confronted his colleague, they allegedly refused to stop. That’s when Weaver turned physical after Einagel said “game on.”

The two firefighters started body checking each other, Einagel testified, saying he gripped dividers between sinks as he tried to hip-check Weaver out of the way.

Einagel said the two were “having fun” and denied ever hitting his non-binary colleague in the neck. He admitted to pushing Weaver with his hands after they started to back into him, and said he touched their shoulder and clavicle with his right hand. It all allegedly lasted no more than seven seconds.

“I went into this interaction to have fun. The last thing I saw in their face was they’re angry. I genuinely don’t know,” testified Einagel.

The Crown tried to argue that Einagel escalated the issue because he was mad at his colleague.

“But, at some point, it doesn’t become fun anymore, right,” Crown Prosecutor Sonia Beauchamp asked the accused, “because you see Ash’s face at the end of it?”

Einagel said he didn’t realize anything was wrong until he noticed Weaver looked angry. He regrets what happened, the former firefighter said,  and denied ever being angry at Weaver.

Playful fighting

Shenanigans inside fire stations is a normal occurrence, and Einagel said a similar incident happened a month earlier. He said in that case Weaver splashed him with water at the sink which led to a playful push and shoving match. It was described as a “football tackle.”

Weaver won the “challenge”, said Einagel, noting Weaver washed the dishes with a big grin on their face. “I was right beside them. They washed, I dried,” he said.

In previous testimony, Weaver had a different account of events. They said Einagel threw dishes at their hands and slammed their body into the kitchen counter with the force of his body. Weaver also stated Einagel wrapped his hands around their neck and lodged them from the floor while making insensitive comments about their gender identity.

Addressing his support for the LGBTQ community,  Einagel became visibly emotional as he talked about his sister who is married to a woman. The couple have a daughter together. Evidence photos also showed Pride stickers on the windshield of his white Volkswagen.

The only time Einagel said he got into a conversation with Weaver over LGBTQ issues, was when they were talking about the use of “Queer” as a word.

“It was a great, interactive conversation, everyone at the table was in on it,” he testified. “No one was uncomfortable.”

Weaver previously testified their former colleague would make hurtful and homophobic comments about their gender identity upwards of 10 times per shift.

Denial of wrongdoing 

On May 30, station captain Greg Wright denied ever telling Weaver not to report the incident to upper officials. He also said they never asked for medical attention.

Wright testified he actually asked Weaver if they wanted to report it to senior Ottawa Fire officials, but they said no, instead requesting it stay within the four walls of the Barrhaven station.

According to Wright he never saw the alleged incident take place, and was told Weaver “needed space” after leaving the kitchen. Wright said the incident got out of hand, but didn’t feel there was any injury. Later on, he met with Weaver in a supply closet who reiterated they were doing fine.

“They said they were OK, good to go, gave me a thumbs-up,” Wright testified.

In Weaver’s former testimony, they painted a different picture, saying Wright discouraged them from seeking medical attention. About 30 hours after the alleged assault, Weaver went to the Montfort Hospital to receive X-rays and other tests. They revealed no fractures, concussions, or hearing damage. They were told to stay home for five days and take some Advil.

Horseplay at fire stations is now discouraged. In March 2023, deputy fire chief David Matschk sent an email to firefighters saying after the alleged incident, fooling around in all fire stations would need to cease immediately. Wright called it an act of higher ups “covering their butts,” and stated firefighters were now nervous showing up at work, fearing what could be said about them.