KIRO 7 Investigates: Pierce County EMT charged with assault

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A Pierce County firefighter is charged with assault after an incident outside Good Samaritan Hospital in Puyallup.

Sean Clayton, a firefighter/EMT with Central Pierce Fire and Rescue responded to a call at Good Samaritan Hospital in April 2017. Instead of helping a Sumner woman who was brought to the ER by her dad, investigators say he grabbed Jodi Rudolph's hair and assaulted her.

Rudolph was sitting in the passenger seat of her dad's car outside the emergency room when Clayton reached inside, according to investigators. The entire incident was caught on camera.

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"I knew immediately what he did was wrong. 'Oh my gosh, you just assaulted me'. I was upset. I was shocked, " said Jodi Rudolph. "The window was open. When he came by, he kicked the car and then he grabbed -- right as he kicked the car -- he grabbed my hair."

That moment came on what already was a traumatic night for Rudolph, who admits she'd been drinking and taken some pills. Her dad didn't know how many and took her to the hospital.

Despite what they say happened, Rudolph and her dad didn't report Clayton.

Someone else who witnessed the incident made an anonymous complaint to the state. An investigator from the Department of Health contacted the Rudolphs six months later.

Puyallup police were contacted, too. Clayton is charged with misdemeanor assault in the fourth degree for the incident.

In May 2018, Central Pierce Fire and Rescue notified Clayton they planned to terminate his employment. They cited repeated misconduct, repeated violations of the philosophy and culture document, and repeated violations of the code of conduct, along with improper performance of the assigned duties of an acting officer.

Clayton told investigators he grabbed her hair to open her airway.

Hospital staff said they told Clayton she was fine and breathing and that he wasn't needed at the hospital. Her dad called 911 for police, not fire, to escort her inside.

But instead of Clayton being fired, after a meeting with his union, Local 726, Clayton entered into a "Last Chance Agreement" with the fire department.

He was suspended for five shifts without pay and given final-warning status, which meant any future vioation would result in immediate termination.

KIRO 7 found this is Clayton's second "Last Chance Agreement." His first was in 2005 when he was going through the recruit academy.
 
KIRO 7 uncovered Clayton has a long list of complaints, including being disciplined for shouting at the ER staff at Good Samaritan Hospital in September 2017.

According to the health department investigation, in March 2015 a Labor & Industries Department case manager handling Clayton's case filed a complaint against him for "rude and demeaning behavior."

Records show in September 2015, a co-worker complained he "is concerned wtih Sean's volatility and that he has the tools to be violent."

Rudolph doesn't understand why Clayton is getting so many chances.

"If he's doing that to me in a public place, when he's out on calls to public residences who knows how he's treating other people," said Rudolph.

KIRO 7 reached out to Central Pierce Fire and Rescue to ask why Clayton is still employed.

Central Pierce Fire and Rescue said Clayton is on paid administrative leave while they wait for the outcome of his assault trial, and the investigation by the Department of Health. It is possible state investigators could revoke his EMT license.

Clayton's union issued a statement:

"We are aware of these serious allegations. The matter is currently under investigation by the proper civil authorities. This matter does not change the fact that firefighters continue to serve our proud public every day at fire stations throughout our district." -- Aaron James, President, Local 726

KIRO 7 reached out to Clayton for comment but he did not return the call.

Clayton's attorney, Norm Golden, told KIRO 7 he would not comment on the matter.

Rudolph recently filed a tort claim against Central Pierce Fire and Rescue for $250,000.

Clayton's trial for misdemeanor assault in the fourth degree is scheduled for late August.

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