As he left a San Antonio jail Wednesday morning, Nick Pappas repeatedly declined comment to a local reporter. Wearing the same orange Sam Houston shirt he had on the night before, he got in a van, along with his wife and a fellow Bryan firefighter and drove away.
He left after bonding out of jail, accused of online solicitation of a minor. The crime is a third-degree felony, punishable by up to two years in state jail and up to a $10,000 fine.
Fire Chief Mike Donoho's response was swift.
"Effective today, I have placed Battalion Chief Nick Pappas on paid administrative leave, pending an internal investigation to be conducted by the Bryan Fire Department's administrative staff with assistance from local law enforcement and the San Antonio Police Department," Donoho said in a prepared statement. "He will remain on paid administrative leave until the investigation is complete or until further notice."
According to the SAPD police report, Pappas had asked to meet and have sex with a 13-year-old girl in the Alamo City. When he arrived at the discussed location, he was met by a vice unit. The 25-year Bryan Fire vet was taken into custody without incident, according to the report.
"He has always performed his job functions very well," Donoho said.
The chief's next words prove very telling: "He was a well-respected member of the fire department.
"It's something that you don't like to have to deal with, but as administrators, it's our job to have to deal with this as quickly as possible through our administrative procedures."
Pappas is one of three battalion chiefs with Bryan FD. He answers to the assistant fire chief of operations. When on duty, Pappas would be the shift commander, and if called to a fire, would take command of the on-scene activities.
Donoho met with Pappas for ten minutes Wednesday morning to fill out the appropriate paper work. Any firefighter arrested must notify the department of their arrest within 24 hours. Pappas did abide by this rule.
As a result of his placement on leave, Pappas cannot engage in department-related activties, or step foot in a station without permission. His options are retirement or resignation, remaining on leave until being indicted, or face further disciplinary action.
Donoho says in his 27-year tenure with the department he now heads up, there has never been an incident of this magnitude.
As part of their investigation, Bryan Fire screened the computer used by the department's three battalion chiefs. No evidence was found to suggest he used a city computer to solicit a minor.
Pappas is also a volunteer with Texas Task Force 1. Most recently, he had deployed to areas hit by Hurricane Katrina. The organization says Pappas has been deactivated, and further actions may be taken.
"We have to make sure our task force members are in good standing," said Task Force 1 spokesperson Jason Cook. "It's a relationship that we have with their sponsoring departments. We ensure they are actually deployable before we can engage them as far as Texas Task Force 1 activities."
Cook says somewhere in the neighborhood of 10 Bryan firefighters volunteer with Texas Task Force 1.
Donoho, who has been a coworker of Pappas's for the battalion chief's entire 25-year tenure, was asked about seeing the footage of Pappas being brought in handcuffs before a judge Tuesday night.
His response: "I'm numb, disappointed. Disbelief. All the feelings that you go through. You work with someone for 25 years, you have a bond. This is something that I would have never imagined, and I don't think anyone here would have ever imagined anything like that."
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