Jacksonville firefighter accused of hitting wife in mouth

Engineer charged with domestic battery, placed on administrative duty

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – A Jacksonville firefighter accused of hitting his wife in the mouth during an argument is facing a domestic battery charge.

Rescue engineer Harry Francis, 43, was arrested Tuesday at Fire Station 33 on New Kings Road in the Dinsmore area. He was not on duty at the time of his arrest.

Jacksonville Fire and Rescue Department spokesman Tom Francis, who is not related to Harry Francis, said the engineer, who is charged with domestic battery, was placed on a 40-hour administrative assignment pending an internal investigation. 

Harry Francis, who has been with JFRD since April 2008, is accused of hitting his wife in the mouth, causing an abrasion and swelling.

 According to his arrest report, Francis' wife told police that he back-handed her in the mouth, leaving her with a fat lip. The report states the couple had gotten into an argument, and the wife told police that when Francis shoved her, she said she was going to call his chief. 

Gene Nichols, a defense attorney who’s not affiliated with this case, has represented firefighters before. He said there are a lot of possible outcomes with a misdemeanor charge like this.

"The State Attorney’s Office is going to prosecute him just like they would anybody else," Nichols said. "A lot of times, in a case like this, we will see an individual plead to a lesser charge of battery and not domestic battery."

Francis confessed to police, according to his arrest report. The I-TEAM tried to contact Francis for his side of the story, but his contact information is redacted from the police report because he’s a first responder. First responders are also exempt from having their mug shots released to the public.

Fire Chief Kurt Wilson issued a statement:

“We are aware of the incident. The employee has been assigned to administrative duty upon the outcome of an internal investigation. We will have further statement after our investigation is concluded.”

Francis is the second Jacksonville firefighter to be charged with domestic battery since July.

Allen Hawk was arrested July 31 on charges of misdemeanor domestic battery and felony domestic battery. Hawk, who had worked for JFRD since 2004, was suspended in August, pending termination.

Hawk, 40, was also taken off field duty after his arrest.

About the Authors:

Lifetime Jacksonville resident anchors the 8 and 9 a.m. weekday newscasts and is part of the News4Jax I-Team.

Lynnsey Gardner is an Edward R. Murrow award-winning investigative reporter and fill-in anchor for The Local Station.