The family of a 20-year Salem firefighter who killed himself nearly two years ago is suing the city claiming wrongful death and negligence.

Bryan Baxter, the son-in-law and a representative of firefighter Craig Warren’s estate, is seeking $4.15 million in damages. The claim was filed July 5 in Marion County Circuit Court and the city has yet to respond.

“We’ve received the complaint and we’re evaluating the complaint to file a responsive pleading,” Salem Deputy City Attorney Sean Brady said. He declined to comment on the allegations in the complaint document.

Warren suffered psychological problems related to his work and committed suicide July 31, 2009, after  the city conducted an investigation and gave him an ultimatum to resign or be fired, according to the civil filing.

“It’s our opinion that the way the city conducted the investigation of Mr. Warren, especially when they became aware that he was having some emotional difficulties, was very cruel,” said attorney Jaime Goldberg of Portland, who represents Baxter.

According to the complaint:

Warren was a 20-year veteran of the Salem Fire Department who suffered psychiatric problems “following his response as a Salem Firefighter [sic] to several traumatic calls for service.”

In early 2009, a switch in psychiatrists resulted in a medication mistake and Warren was not fully treated, causing him behavioral problems, increasing anxiety and irritability and leading “to a low threshold for impulsive actions and speech.”

When the error was noticed, Salem Fire Department was simultaneously investigating Warren for alleged inappropriate comments made to other firefighters.

Salem fire command staff conducted an interview with Warren in July 2009, which increased Warren’s anxiety and depressive symptoms, and after a second interview noticed he was disturbed and ordered Warren to use the Employee Assistance Program.

A third interview was conducted days later, leading Fire Chief Mike Niblock and Deputy Chief Greg Hadley to give Warren an ultimatum: resign or be fired on July 31, 2009.

“Giving him a deadline of the end of the month … it was very cold-hearted and cruel in our view,” Goldberg said.

Warren resigned July 27 effective July 31, the day he killed himself.

“With knowledge that Craig Warren was in an emotionally unstable state of mind and that he was experiencing worsening anxiety and depressive symptoms in July of 2009, defendant’s employees subjected Craig Warren to extreme emotional pressure through a harsh, aggressive and deceptive interrogation process, followed by an ultimatum that he either resign or be fired by July 31, 2009, and thus defendant breached its duty of reasonable care towards [sic] Craig Warren,” the claim reads.