Dave Bremer was on his way home from Bible study Saturday night when he ran into the rear of the minivan in front of him. What Orlando police say happened next shocked Bremer and, he said, left him with injuries so severe that he’ll need time to recover before he can go back to work as a contractor.
A man later identified as Orlando District Fire Chief Melvin “Rob” Rivenbark Jr. — wearing his uniform — jumped out of the van, reached into the Jeep, grabbed Bremer by the hair and slammed his head into the side of the Jeep, according to police.
Bremer said his right knee banged against the steering-wheel column during the incident, dislodging hardware a doctor placed there years earlier after Bremer fell down some stairs, he told the Orlando Sentinel in an interview at his attorney’s office.
“The only reason that my guard was let down and he had the opportunity to grab me the way he did is because he had a badge,” Bremer, 51, said. “I looked at him as a person of authority.”
Rivenbark, 46, who comes from a family of firefighters, was arrested on a misdemeanor charge of battery. Bremer was ticketed on a charge of following too closely.
A witness at the scene on John Young Parkway near Silver Star Road told officers he saw a man wearing a white shirt — part of Rivenbark’s uniform — reach into the Jeep and move his arms toward the driver, a police report states.
A message left for Rivenbark through his union was not returned. He was released Sunday from the Orange County Jail on $500 bail.
At the time of the accident, Rivenbark was on his way home and was not on duty, Deputy Fire Chief Greg Hoggatt said. The department plans to conduct an internal investigation after the criminal proceeding is finished, he said.
No decision about Rivenbark’s status will be made until he returns to work as regularly scheduled on Friday.
“We don’t want to jump the gun,” Hoggatt said.
Bremer wants Rivenbark fired from his $105,706-per-year job or demoted to a position where he doesn’t deal with the public.
“If his temper is that short, he should not be in a position dealing with people,” Bremer said.