Trial begins for two for alleged assault on a non-binary firefighter

The first witness called to testify on the first day of the trial fought back tears several times on the stand.

Article content

Megan Hills described Eric Einagel as having a “red fog” around him right before he put his hands on Ash Weaver.

“It just didn’t seem like it was him at the time,” said Hills, a firefighter with Ottawa Fire Services who was working on the same crew as Weaver, Einagel and co-accused Captain Gregory Wright on Sept. 14, 2022.

Article content

She was the first witness called to testify on the first day of Einagel and Wright’s trial, and fought back tears several times on the witness stand.

Advertisement 2

Article content

Einagel, 38, is charged with assault causing bodily harm by choking Weaver, a non-binary rookie firefighter, as well as harassment. The Crown alleges he threatened Weaver and caused them to fear for his safety. Eventually, Einagel was fired from his job as a firefighter.

Meanwhile, Wright is accused of failing to take reasonable steps to prevent bodily harm against Weaver, as well as discipline Weaver, or threaten to do so, and negatively affect her employment, with the ultimate goal of preventing Weaver from going to the police for the alleged assault.

Before the altercation that led to Einagel allegedly strangling Weaver, the seven-person team had enjoyed dinner at Station 47 on Greenbank Road, Hills said. But at the beginning of the shift, Hills said Einagel seemed “off” and stressed.

The judge-only trial in front of Judge Mitchell Hoffman heard that Einagel, Weaver and Hills were next to each other in the station kitchen when the assault allegedly occurred. Einagel had asked to wash the dishes, which is normally the job of the youngest member of the crew. In this case, it was Weaver, who was completing his one-year probationary period.

Advertisement 3

Article content

Einagel asked to wash the dishes more than once before grabbing the counter and “hip checking” Weaver from his spot at the sink, Hills testified. Weaver responded in kind, and the two exchanged two hip checks each, she recalled.

At first, “it seemed very mutual,” Hills said, and Weaver “brought the same toughness back to Eric.”

But then Einagel pushed Weaver away from the sink with both hands, Hills said. Weaver pushed him back. As before, “He gI gave him a good push, but Ash gave it right back,” Hills said. However, upon Einagel’s second push, he said, “Let me wash the dishes,” Hills said.

“That’s when I noticed his face,” Hills said. He said he didn’t quite know how to describe it, but that his colleague “didn’t seem like himself.”

Weaver had his back to Einagel, about to run backwards toward him, when he reached out and wrapped one hand around his neck, Hills said.

“I said ‘stop it,’” she testified, “and he immediately let go of me.”

Weaver, Hills said, had a “panicked” expression when Einagel’s hand was around her neck and throat.

Hills was a key witness in the trial as the alleged assault took place right in front of her. When she was asked why she was getting emotional on the witness stand, Ella Hills said the situation escalated quickly.

Advertisement 4

Article content

“It just didn’t look like Eric,” he said. “I don’t know why he had to go that far.”

Einagel briefly bowed his head as Hills testified, but otherwise did not react.

Hills said she and Einagel were among the youngest members of the team, who had been hired at the same time and had completed “training school” together.

She testified after the altercation between Einagel and Weaver: “It didn’t seem like they were done,” so Hills told Weaver to head to the truck bay. Weaver was “visibly upset and crying,” Hills said, but she completed the rest of her 24-hour shift.

Meanwhile, Einagel attempted to apologize to Weaver, but Hills said he should wait, as his colleague was still visibly upset.

Later that night, Hills said Einagel also approached her to apologize.

“I said, ‘Do you even know why you’re apologizing?’ and he said, ‘I know things got out of hand,’ and I said, ‘You know you had a hand in…?’ and I don’t think I finished that sentence,” he said. “And he said, ‘No, I didn’t.’ “

Hills again characterized Einagel as being in a “red fog” moment of rage.

“People can do things when they’re so angry and not even remember it,” she said through tears. “So I wasn’t sure if it was that kind of moment.”

Advertisement 5

Article content

Crown prosecutor Sonia Beauchamp showed the judge and a packed courtroom about a dozen photographs taken by police investigators inside the fire station, and Hills gave a thorough tour of the building, including the kitchen, the lounge, truck bay, storage closet and more.

Hills said he checked Weaver’s neck for injuries after the alleged assault and did not see any redness, bruising, swelling or marks on his hands. In the middle of the night, Weaver woke up and took a painkiller, and was still visibly upset, Hills said, shaking his neck and shaking his head.

In the days and weeks that followed, Hills participated in the workplace’s internal investigation into the matter. She said everyone involved was told not to talk about it.

The trial of Einagel and Wright is expected to continue on Tuesday, with defense attorneys Dominic Lamb and Joshua Clarke questioning Hills.

With Postmedia files

READ MORE: Ottawa firefighter feared retaliation for reporting choking, internal report says

Recommended by Editorial

Article content

Leave a Comment