City Refuses Legal Defense for Firefighter Facing Criminal Charges for Apparatus Accident

A Colorado Springs firefighter who is facing criminal charges following a fatal apparatus accident last October, will have to pay for his own legal defense. Wesley Cosgrove was hoping the city would provide a defense attorney, but the Colorado Springs City Council voted 6-2 to deny his request.

On October 16, 2022, Cosgrove was driving a brush unit to a fire in a park that was inaccessible via the surrounding roads. While proceeding down a dirt path he drove over what appears to be debris. A 76-year-old homeless woman was apparently under the debris, which included blankets and other items. She died from her injuries.

Cosgrove is charged with careless driving resulting in death, a misdemeanor. He has an initial hearing January 12, 2023. IAFF Local 5 expressed its disappointment with the city council’s decision. The Colorado Springs Indy quoted IAFF Local President Curt Crumb as saying:

  • I think it sends a terrible message to every employee of the city.
  • Anyone who drives a vehicle and has the ability to have something tragic like this happen, the city isn’t going to support you.
  • I firmly believe they should have supported his legal fees. That’s for a court to decide if he’s wrong. The city should stand by their employees. He wasn’t drunk. He had the brush truck where he was supposed to have it. He was doing something he was supposed to do. The city can’t just wash their hands. It doesn’t work that way. He was in the commission of his duties. He was on a call.
  • What does it say if he’s found innocent and completely guilt free? I do not feel supported by Council’s decision. This sends a message to every employee in the city.

Councilman Dave Donelson was quoted as saying:

  • I think it’s in the city’s interest for morale for our fire and police for us to pay for the defense of this firefighter.

However, the council had a concern that under city code if they paid and Cosgrove was convicted, he would have to reimburse the city.  More on the story.

About Curt Varone

Curt Varone has over 45 years of fire service experience and 35 as a practicing attorney licensed in both Rhode Island and Maine. His background includes 29 years as a career firefighter in Providence (retiring as a Deputy Assistant Chief), as well as volunteer and paid on call experience. He is the author of two books: Legal Considerations for Fire and Emergency Services, (2006, 2nd ed. 2011, 3rd ed. 2014, 4th ed. 2022) and Fire Officer's Legal Handbook (2007), and is a contributing editor for Firehouse Magazine writing the Fire Law column.
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