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Brookline firefighter allegedly beat man over slow order at taqueria

BROOKLINE — It started with words in line at Anna’s Taqueria on Harvard Street Sunday night and ended in a flurry of punches, authorities said.

Around 10:40 p.m., Joseph G. Ward III told the man in front of him that he was taking too long and asked him to hurry up, according to a police report.

Words were exchanged. The other man, identified in court papers as Jeffrey Gagnon, 53, told police that he suggested “they could take it outside.”

There, a prosecutor alleged, Ward, a 37-year-old firefighter, pushed Gagnon, threw a glass bottle and burrito at him, and called him a “homeless [expletive]” in an attack captured on surveillance video.


The video shows “the victim on the ground with the defendant over his body repeatedly [punching] his head as his head is lying on the sidewalk,” Assistant Norfolk District Attorney Jessica Brokaw said Tuesday as Ward appeared in Brookline District Court.

“The surveillance video of this incident is quite violent,” said Brokaw, who requested that Ward be held on $10,000 bail.

Ward faces charges of assault and battery and assault and battery with a dangerous weapon. Not-guilty pleas were entered on his behalf.

Gagnon was found with blood spurting from his eye area, Brokaw said. He was treated at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, a hospital spokeswoman said.

The town placed Ward on paid administrative leave, said Mel Kleckner, Brookline’s town administrator. Fire Chief Paul D. Ford said in a statement that the town is investigating and will be “taking appropriate action” once its inquiry is finished.

Allston resident David Dunsire, 25, who witnessed the confrontation, called the assault brutal.

“It was just this big, tall dude beating the living hell out of this guy,” Dunsire said. “It was violent.”

Another witness told officers the attacker was “really hitting a guy on the ground,” according to a police report filed in court. The witness said she saw the attacker kick the man on his side and that it appeared that “he was trying to keep him down.”


The assault ended when that witness yelled at Ward to stop, the report said. Brookline police later took Ward into custody on Winchester Street.

Ward told officers that he asked the man in front of him in line to hurry up, the report said. Gagnon, according to the report, told Ward, “Let’s take this outside.”

“I know what this is about and I did punch him,” the report quotes Ward as saying. Officers said Ward was “lucid and sober” when he spoke with police.

Defense attorney Benjamin P. Urbelis said there are “possibly multiple sides to every story” and requested that Anna’s Taqueria preserve video from Sunday. “The video that is seen outside stems from what spilled out from inside the restaurant,” he said. Urbelis didn’t elaborate.

He described Ward as a 1997 Brookline High School graduate who has worked as a firefighter for nearly 10 years.

Brokaw said Ward has been prosecuted for malicious destruction of property in Brookline and for motor vehicle offenses in Newton District Court. Urbelis said both cases were dismissed.

Judge Mary Dacey White released Ward on personal recognizance. He is due to return to court Nov. 16.

Gagnon, who provided addresses in Rhode Island and New Bedford, gave officers an assessment of his alleged attacker, the police report said.


“I guess the guy was tougher than I thought.”

Laura Crimaldi can be reached at laura.crimaldi@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @lauracrimaldi.