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Altercation Last Straw for Former Police Chief

San Francisco's director of emergency services, Alex Fagan, is placed on leave and will retire.

March 31, 2004|Lee Romney | Times Staff Writer

SAN FRANCISCO — San Francisco's mayor Tuesday placed former Police Chief Alex Fagan on administrative leave from his job as Office of Emergency Services director in the wake of an apparent drunken altercation in Arizona last week involving Fagan and his son.

Mayor Gavin Newsom's office announced that Fagan will soon retire "due to personal and family matters and in the best interest of the city," and in the meantime has been placed on leave from the position he has held since Newsom replaced him as the city's top cop in January.

The younger Fagan was among the off-duty officers who allegedly beat two men in November 2002 in a street brawl over a bag of fajitas. Alex Fagan Jr., who was eventually relieved of duty, still faces assault charges in that case, which reverberated to the top echelons of the department. In what became known as "fajitagate," a grand jury indicted the elder Fagan, who was an assistant chief at the time; then-Police Chief Earl Sanders; and five other high-ranking police officials on charges of conspiracy to cover up the fight. The charges eventually were dropped and the top brass, including Fagan Sr., were declared "factually innocent."

Fagan Jr. was arrested after Thursday's brawl at a Scottsdale, Ariz., hotel, which apparently began as an argument with his dad and ended after he allegedly threatened to kill two security guards and fought their efforts to restrain him. Fagan Sr., who Scottsdale police said also appeared intoxicated, was briefly handcuffed when he refused to follow police orders.

Newsom announced Fagan Sr.'s imminent retirement late Tuesday afternoon. The incident was not the former chief's first involving alcohol: He was involved in a drunken clash with California Highway Patrol officers in 1990 and 10 years later left the scene of an accident after he had been drinking. Those incidents became fodder for criticism of Fagan Sr. when former Mayor Willie Brown promoted him to the Police Department's top post last year.

The Police Department issued a brief statement Monday announcing an "administrative investigation" into the incident.

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Associated Press contributed to this report.

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