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Police Accuse Off-Duty Firefighter of Starting Melee in Downtown Scottsdale

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Police want four people, including an off-duty Scottsdale firefighter, charged with starting a melee in downtown Scottsdale.

Hundreds of people were involved in the incident, which shut down North Saddlebag Trail and East Shoeman Lane about 2:30 a.m. Sunday, August 2, according to a report reviewed by New Times. No serious injuries were reported from the large fight.

Witnesses and surveillance video from a nearby business caused police to focus on Chad Preslar, 27, a Scottsdale firefighter, as one of the primary instigators. Now he and Brandy Araiza, 29; Anthony Durazo, 29; and Vanessa Vargas, 29 are accused of three misdemeanors each: obstruction of a public thoroughfare, causing a public nuisance by blocking roadways, and disorderly conduct/fighting.

Preslar's also in possible trouble with his department, which launched an internal investigation to determine whether he violated city policies.

According to an unnamed witness in the report who was considered by police to be reliable, the incident began when Durazo, the witness' cousin, got into a fight with his girlfriend, Araiza, in front of Wadaa Tacos, an eatery popular after bars close. The witness said friends split up the two, and they were "cooled off" and "totally fine" before Preslar showed up and challenged Durazo.

The surveillance video, which wasn't released immediately with the report, shows Preslar and Durazo "squaring off," police say, before the two clashed, joined by friends on each side. (UPDATE: See video here.)

"At this point, there is a melee occurring, and the streets have now become gridlocked due to subjects fighting" as seen in the video, the reports says. Some of the scene was  blocked from the camera by a flagpole.

The scene was "very chaotic," the report says, with hundreds of people "gathering around the fight, filming and walking through the scene."

Once police gained control of the situation, Preslar was located during the on-scene investigation and questioned. Bleeding from his lip and with a scrape on the bridge of his nose, the obviously intoxicated Preslar claimed, "They were trying to fight my girl," the report states. He said Durazo had been "talking shit" earlier in the night, that he was attacked, and that his girlfriend, Vargas, tried to intervene.

Police submitted the case to city prosecutors this week..

Scottsdale Fire Chief Tom Shannon tells New Times that he's reviewed the report and decided to allow Preslar to continue in his duties, for now.

"The Scottsdale Fire Department takes very seriously any behavior of our personnel that may degrade the public's trust," Shannon says.

A decision in the department's internal investigation will come after the court case, if there is one, has concluded.

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