Chelsea fire captain resigns after being accused of pointing gun at another firefighter
Editor's note: This article has been updated with a comment from Chelsea Police Chief Ed Toth.
Chelsea Fire Capt. Sam Norton resigned Thursday after being accused of pointing an unloaded gun at another firefighter and creating a "hostile work environment."
Norton emphatically denies pointing a gun at anyone during the incident, which occurred more than a month ago. He said he resigned over differences of opinion in how the department should be run.
Norton had been on paid administrative leave since Dec. 15, amid an investigation into several incidents Chelsea Fire Chief Jim Payeur classified as “creating a hostile work environment.” He would not provide additional details about those incidents.
Payeur said he learned of the allegations involving the gun the week before Christmas. He asked the Chelsea Police Department to investigate, but no charges were filed.
"This Department thoroughly investigated, said Chelsea Police Chief Ed Toth.
The incident involving the gun occurred sometime in November, but Norton didn't know the exact date. He said a firefighter brought an unloaded rifle to the station but had it in his car. He asked Norton for permission to bring it inside, and Norton told him he'd like to see it.
Norton said he and other firefighters handled the gun, but he never pointed it at a firefighter who walked into the room. Payeur said several witnesses saw the incident.
“As a command officer, Sam should have known better than to have another firefighter bring a gun into the station," Payeur said. "Then it was reported to me that he pointed it at another human. Loaded or unloaded, the guy walking in the door doesn’t know that, and it made the firefighter feel uncomfortable.”
Norton said there are a number of gun collectors and hunters in the department, and firefighters would periodically bring their guns or bows to the station to show them to the others.
"In the past, like during hunting season, we'd have our hunting equipment with us in the back of the station to keep it safe and warm, and when our shift was over, we'd put it in our cars and leave," Norton said.
Norton — who joined the department seven years ago and had been a captain for 18 months — said that incident was not the reason he resigned.
"We had differences of opinion on how shifts should be run," Norton said, "I preferred a more paramilitary approach like in larger fire departments, and in my opinion the chief had a more relaxed approach."
Ultimately, Payeur said, Norton decided to resign, and “in my book, it ends there.”
Norton is the third firefighter to resign from the department in two months. Lt. Matt Rose left in November following a shift change that resulted in his demotion to firefighter. Lt. Mike Milliken left the department before Christmas for another job.
With Norton's resignation, Derek Klink was promoted to captain, leaving the department with three captains and six firefighters.