Rookie firefighter speaks out about sexual assault
Jason Waldeck said he didn't report the incidents because he figured he needed to deal with the humiliation in order to continue doing what he loved
By Naheed Rajwani
The Dallas Morning News
WAXAHACHIE, Texas — Jason Waldeck sometimes slept at the Ellis County firehouse where he volunteered, just to be sure he wouldn’t miss a call.
As a high school senior, he would jump out of class or baseball practice to respond to fires, car crashes or whatever else the world threw his way.
He said a brutal sexual assault on him at the fire station in January put an end to that work — but not to his passion.
“I wish I was in my truck right now with the sirens blaring on the way to a call,” Waldeck, 20, said Wednesday in his first detailed interview about the alleged attack.
“I put my heart and soul into this department — blood, sweat and tears,” he said, wearing a silver necklace with a fireman’s shield. “I did a lot for complete strangers that will never recognize me ever again.”
Authorities say Preston Thomas Peyrot, 19; Alec Chase Miller, 28; Casey Joe Stafford, 30; Blake Jerold Tucker, 20; and Keith Edward Wisakowsky, 27 sexually assaulted Waldeck with a sausage.
They all volunteered with Waldeck at the ESD No. 6 fire department in Waxahachie, which serves unincorporated Ellis County.
Wisakowsky’s girlfriend, Brittany Leanne Parten, is accused of filming the attack on her cellphone.
And the two men who oversaw the department — Chief Gavin Satterfield, 32, and Assistant Chief Billy Getzendaner, 35 — are accused of trying to cover up the attack by instructing Waldeck and the alleged attackers to keep their mouths shut. Satterfield and Getzendaner were removed from the department in April.
None of the accused could be reached for comment.
In a statement provided to KXAS-TV (NBC5), Parten’s attorney said his client is “absolutely not guilty.”
“All the stuff that has come out in the press has come from the alleged victim or the state,” Mark Griffith said. “If this case isn’t dismissed, I look forward to showing 12 people in this county all of the evidence. All of it.”
Waldeck said Wednesday that Satterfield was at the fire station at the time of the attack. The chief came out of his office and asked the group why Waldeck was walking around naked, Waldeck said.
The Dallas Morning News does not usually identify victims of sexual assault, but Waldeck said Wednesday he wanted to share his story.
“I’m not going to sit back and hide from it anymore,” he said.
He said he has seen the video of the assault — still saved on his iPhone — 30 to 40 times. He said he winces every time he hears his colleagues in the video cackle as they assault him.
He wants to forget that night but is determined to remember it so he can give authorities the information they’ll need to prosecute the case.
“So that when I’m put on the stand, I can tell it as it is and remember in detail,” he said.
Waldeck grew up in Waxahachie. As a young boy he played fireman in the backyard with his neighbors, wearing a plastic helmet and firefighting equipment. He marveled at fire trucks that showed up at his friends’ birthday parties as the entertainment.
On 9/11, he watched the Twin Towers collapse and thought: “One day I want to be a hero like that. I want to be a firefighter.”
At age 12, a 911 dispatcher taught him CPR when his grandmother lost consciousness at his house in rural Ellis County. It took an ambulance 45 minutes to get to there. By then, his grandmother had died.
That experience, he said, inspired him to become a volunteer firefighter at the Ellis County station. He started volunteering at age 18, while attending Waxahachie High School.
Waldeck said the men charged in the assault picked on him for two years, pranking him and teasing him for the mistakes he made as a young fireman. He alleged that some of the suspects once handcuffed him to a flagpole, pulled down his pants and forced a rookie firefighter to shave his head.
Waldeck said he didn’t report the incidents to anyone because he figured he needed to deal with the humiliation in order to continue doing what he loved. But the January assault, just weeks after his peers voted him Firefighter of the Year at a holiday party, crossed the line, he said.
By the end of that week, many of the firefighters who weren’t at the station on the night of the assault had seen a video of it through a group text. Some were furious and told Waldeck to report the attack to authorities, he said.
Waldeck wasn’t sure what he’d do. The fact that he lived in a close-knit community made it harder to file a complaint, he said. The father of one of the suspects had been his baseball coach in high school, and two of the suspects were in his EMT class.
He didn’t want to hurt his friends and family, who saw him as a hometown hero for being a firefighter. He worried that the fire department would be shut down because of his allegations and wondered what would happen to the suspects’ families if they were jailed.
Around the time the suspects were arrested, Waldeck was diagnosed with PTSD. He moved in with his brother in Corpus Christi, where they fished and hunted to help him cope.
There, he realized he needed to do what he felt was best for him. He returned to Waxahachie last month, and he’s pressing forward with the sexual assault charges.
Arraignment hearings are scheduled for Dec. 1.
“The tables have turned,” Waldeck said. “All those years they picked on me, and now I’ve taken the control from them. Now, they’re facing charges.”
‘The good I can do’
Strangers and acquaintances have since confided in Waldeck about their own experiences with sexual assault.
“I never thought I’d be an advocate for something like this,” he said. “But when this happened, I see the good I can do for other people. I would like to be an advocate as much as I can, as much as God wants me to be.”
Patrick Wilson, the Ellis County district attorney, said he’s been closely involved in the investigation.
He declined to discuss details of the case because it hasn’t yet been settled. He said Waldeck’s story might empower other victims of sexual assault to talk about their experiences publicly.
“I think sometimes we assume there might be shame when in fact most people won’t see it that way,” Wilson said.
Waldeck’s attorney has advised him not to volunteer at the fire department until the case is resolved. Instead, he helps out at his grandfather’s trophy shop in Corsicana.
In January, Waldeck plans to start firefighter training at Hill College in Hillsboro. He has a to raise money for the classes. He hopes to return to North Texas as a paid firefighter.
“Coming forward was the hardest and most embarrassing thing to do, but I’ll be OK in the long run,” he wrote on the GoFundMe page. “I just want to get back on the path that they took me off of.”
(c)2015 The Dallas Morning News