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Boston firefighter slammed man to the sidewalk after bar scuffle neither was involved in - but took off his coat as a pillow for his victim, police, family say

A Boston firefighter who was a regular at a Faneuil Hall bar slammed a Connecticut man to the ground outside, possibly leaving him with limited mobility for the rest of his life, even though neither knew the other - or had anything to do with some scuffling that had occurred both in and just outside the bar not long before, police, bar workers and the man and his family told the Boston Licensing Board today.

The firefighter, Robert Buckley, 43, of Plymouth, has been charged with assault and battery on a person over 60 and suspended from his firefighting job. He now faces - along with J.J. Donovan's bar - a $7.5 million lawsuit over the Dec. 3 incident.

Maribeth Steele, who'd come up to Boston with her husband Gary to celebrate their daughter's engagement, said this morning Buckley did seem to show a moment of remorse after yanking her husband by the arm and slamming him to the sidewalk, wrenching his neck and leaving him covered in his own blood from the large gash on his forehead through which part of his skull could be seen: "He came up to me and took off his coat, he had a black coat on, to put it under [her husband's] head, and said 'I'm sorry I didn't mean to do that.' "

But his remorse did not extend to sticking around to answer to police or paramedics - he then took off, she said. Police found him later that night at Atlantic Avenue and High Street, in front of Rowes Wharf, where they arrested him. He was with another man, whom the Steeles were talking to when Buckley allegedly attacked.

The Steeles spoke at a hearing the licensing board held to whether J.J. Donovan's could have foreseen what happened and, if so, whether any sanctions are warranted.

According to police and the bar's manager and doorman, the Steeles, their daughter and her fiance were at a table, away from the bar, when an apparent pal of Buckley's - testimony differed as to whether they were actual friends or just for-the-night bar acquaintances - got into a fight at the bar, around 12:45 a.m., more of a grappling or wrestling match, really, the bar workers said, and tumbled towards the door and the doorman - who got them outside and told them to leave, their night was done.

Manager Christopher Hickey, working as bartender, saw what was going on outside, decided to turn on the lights and told everybody left inside to leave, the night was over. He said he glanced outside and saw the doorman had broken the two up and so thought nothing of ordering people out through the main entrance.

The Steeles left, but stood outside for a bit talking. Then the fiance pointed down North Market Street - the walkway between the building J.J. Donovan's is in and the main marketplace building - to one of the guys who had been inside chatting with Buckley near the entrance to Mija about 50 yards away. He said something like "I'm not going let him get away with that," and began walking towards him, the doorman said. The Steeles and their daughter followed.

Police say the fiance - who did not attend the hearing - actually punched the man. But by the time the rest of his party caught up with him, everybody was talking when, out of nowhere, Buckley came behind Steele from the direction of the bar and yanked him to the pavement, causing severe head and neck injuries that sent him to Mass. General, where he had to stay for more than a month.

Hickey said he did not call police when the initial scuffle began inside, saying it was just a minor thing that didn't rise to the level of "violence" or "imminent violence" that would have warranted a call to 911 and that it was all over in seconds.

But board member Liam Curran, who managed to watch the interior and exterior video the bar's attorneys forwarded to the board just last night, got Hickey and the doorman to acknowledge it was more than just a simple, quickly resolved scuffle, that one combatant had, in fact, gotten his opponent in a headlock inside the bar and then, outside, went at him three more times, once throwing a cigarette at him and then actually chasing him down the cobblestones towards the waterfront, before reversing course and heading up to Congress Street - events that happened over at least three to four minutes.

When police found Buckley and the other man at Atlantic and High, they only charged Buckley because the other man had not attacked Steele, a detective testified.

Steele, still wearing a neck brace this morning, told the board he could not offer any insight as to what happened, because the last thing he remembered was beginning to walk towards Mija and his daughter's fiance. "Something happened," he said. "I don't know what. I woke up in the hospital."

J.J. Donovan's attorneys said that while what happened was completely unforeseen, and so not something the bar could be held responsible for, the bar has retrained its staff to call police more quickly even before violence erupts.



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Where else would we hear about things like this?

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board member Liam Curran, who managed to watch the interior and exterior video the bar's attorneys forwarded to the board just last night

Obviously, nothing at all shady about the bar waiting until the 11th hour to share surveillance footage from an event in EARLY DECEMBER. For that reason alone the bar should face punishment.

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But what’s up with fiancé punching the other guy first? This is the first I’m hearing of that. Does he get charged with A &B now too? Just curious, Buckley should def fry though.

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The Pillow Princess defense

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What is the Pillow Princess defense @Friartuck?

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