Firefighters charged with harassing homeless man paid $25K on leave

by: Casey McNerthney, KIRO 7 STAFF Updated:


The two Seattle firefighters charged with harassing a homeless man in Pioneer Square have been paid more than $25,000 each while on paid administrative leave, and they're still getting paid.

Robert Howell and Scott Bullene were each charged with one count of malicious harassment.

Howell and Bullene, were walking through Occidental Park after a Seattle Sounders game when they kicked and screamed at a homeless the man, witnesses told police. Both were off duty.

Also charged is Mia Jarvinen, said to be Bullene’s girlfriend. Investigators said she was with Howell and Bullene.

Police said the attack occurred after the firefighters found the homeless man was sleeping at the Seattle Fallen Firefighters Memorial. All three were intoxicated, police said.

They were charged with malicious harassment on July 9.

Bullene was paid $29,665.96 between March 15, the day of his arrest, and July 1. Howell made $25,208.85 in that same period.

The department did not disclose how much they made between July 1 and 9 because that pay-period deposit had not been issued on July 9, the date KIRO 7 requested the firefighters’ salaries.

The salary data was obtained through a public disclosure request.

Howell, 46, Bullene, 45, and Jarvinen, 37, have not entered a plea each of their misdemeanor malicious harassment charge. Each has an arraignment scheduled for Aug. 5 in Seattle Municipal Court.

It is not uncommon for firefighters to be put on paid administrative leave while an investigation is ongoing. The firefighters remain on paid leave, a department spokesman said Friday.

However, after the alleged incident, Seattle Fire Chief Gregory Dean called their actions egregious and said they will be held accountable.

“On behalf of the men and women of the Seattle Fire Department, I apologize for the violence that occurred in Pioneer Square this weekend,” Dean said at a news briefing to address the incident. “I expect Seattle firefighters to treat every person in our community with respect.”

Jarvinen bailed out of jail the Monday after her arrest. She wore sunglasses and did not respond to questions from a KIRO 7 reporter. Howell wasn't jailed because of a shoulder injury.  Bullene, who was stabbed in the incident, went to Harborview Medical Center. 

Francis Hicks previously told KIRO 7 the three targeted him and another homeless man.

"I went to talk to him and he swing at me. He went there and kicked him right in the face," Hicks said. "And then his wife grabbed the food and threw it all over him."

Witness Ashton Cruz said the first man they went after was 'Sarge,' a disabled veteran, who hobbled on one leg and a walking stick.

Seattle police have said the veteran stabbed Bullene in self-defense.

Based on the police reports and witness interviews, “we have reason to believe the harassment was because of the victim’s status of being homeless,” Criminal Division Chief Craig Sims previously told KIRO 7.

At the time of the attack, Howell, a Seattle firefighter since 1997, had been on disability since Jan. 9. Bullene was hired by the department in 1999.

See previous coverage of Howell and Bullene here.

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