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Hempstead Village fire chief facing charges won't step aside

Hempstead fire chief Mike Charles walks out of

Hempstead fire chief Mike Charles walks out of a church fire. (Undated) Photo Credit: Bill Kelly

The Hempstead Village fire chief Thursday said he won't step aside despite facing charges that he and another man stopped and frisked the stepson of a village trustee at gunpoint this week.

Chief Michael Charles' decision comes after Mayor Wayne Hall Sr. requested he take a leave of absence until the case is closed.

"Michael has done nothing wrong in this case and . . . there is no reason for him to step down," said Charles' attorney, Joseph Conway of Mineola. He said Charles and the second man, New York City firefighter Brian Schuck, were not carrying guns when the incident occurred.

Hall declined to comment on Charles' refusal to step aside.

Charles and Schuck were charged with misdemeanor weapons possession and menacing in an act police describe as vigilantism.

Around 2:30 p.m. Sunday, police said, Charles jumped out of his chief's SUV and patted down the 29-year-old pedestrian while keeping one hand on a gun in a holster. Meanwhile, Schuck, in the backseat of the vehicle, pointed a shotgun at the victim, police said.

The victim, Kenny Powell, 29, of Hempstead, is the stepson of trustee Perry Pettus.

Pettus Thursday said: "I think the chief should step down and not just because I'm involved in the case. I would think the same thing under any circumstances."

Charles, who pleaded not guilty, said he was doing his civic duty by detaining a man he believed fit the description of a man who fired a gun a few blocks from the firehouse earlier that day. Powell was not a suspect in that shooting, police said.

Charles said he was entitled to a hearing before being removed. The Hempstead fire department, which is all volunteer, is governed by a council of 20 members elected by their peers from 10 companies. The council has not said whether they plan to hold a hearing for Charles. A new chief is slated to be sworn in April 20. First assistant Chief Karl Rugg, the only declared candidate, declined to comment.

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