Two Los Angeles firefighters, including a man who starred in the 1993 baseball film “The Sandlot,” have been charged in an assault that took place while they were off-duty and attending a Halloween party, according to the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office.
Michael Anthony Vitar, who played teenage baseball stud Benny “The Jet” Rodriguez in the film, was one of three men arrested for attacking a 22-year-old man who was handing out candy to children, prosecutors said.
Another city firefighter, 38-year-old Eric Carpenter, was hosting a Halloween party attended by Vitar and a neighbor, Thomas Molnar. Prosecutors allege that the three men became upset because the man was walking down the street and handing out candy to children.
Carpenter, Vitar and Molnar chased the man, who was visiting his grandmother in the area, and “jumped him,” prosecutors said.
Carpenter allegedly choked the man after the other two forced him to the ground. Carpenter faces up to seven years in prison if convicted. Vitar and Molnar could each face four years in prison.
Carpenter’s attorney, Michael Goldstein, said the man had walked onto Carpenter’s lawn in a Halloween costume and was offering candy to his children. Carpenter, Vitar and Molnar became concerned by the man’s actions and asked him to leave, but he refused, Goldstein said.
“This all arose out of their concern for their children and the children of others,” Goldstein said.
Goldstein said the three men escorted the victim away from Carpenter’s home, but he allegedly ran back toward the residence, sparking a physical confrontation. When the fight was over, Goldstein said, it was one of the three suspects who actually called 911.
“It was a relatively simple incident … that escalated based on unusual behavior by the alleged victim,” he said. “Eric Carpenter is in the business of saving lives, so when you’re in that business you kind of have a heightened sense of alert.”
Vitar and Carpenter have been suspended with pay, according to the LAFD.
“The LAFD is aware of an incident involving two off-duty firefighters that is alleged to have occurred on Saturday, October 31st,” the agency said in a statement. “The department has cooperated fully with law enforcement during the subsequent investigation.”
Vitar and Carpenter have each been firefighters for more than 12 years, and each earns more than $100,000 annually, according to city records. Vitar worked as an “apparatus operator,” records show.
Vitar, whose character in “The Sandlot” grew up to play for the Los Angeles Dodgers, also appeared in two of Disney’s “Mighty Ducks” films, according to his IMDB profile.
All three men will appear in court Jan. 21. Calls to the city fire union seeking comment were not immediately returned.
Times Staff Writer Ben Welsh contributed to this report.
Follow @JamesQueallyLAT for breaking news