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Enraged Cop Punches Out Drunk Dog Owner Who Assaulted Him
Providence Journal - Providence, Rhode Island - USA
SOUTH KINGSTOWN -- Three local police officers have been disciplined for their handling of a Laurel Lane incident involving an off-duty state trooper, a barking dog, and a Narragansett resident who was partying at his father's home.
South Kingstown Chief Vincent Vespia Jr. yesterday confirmed that sanctions had been taken against three officers but, citing the Law Enforcement Officers Bill of Rights, said he could not name them or say what type of disciplinary action they received. He acknowledged the disciplinary action was linked to an incident in which a state trooper allegedly punched a man who was handcuffed in the back seat of a South Kingstown police cruiser on Sept. 5, 2004.
Michael Healey, spokesman for the attorney general's office, said yesterday his office was reviewing a file on the case Vespia delivered to their offices about two weeks ago.
R.I. State Police Inspector Elwood Johnson confirmed yesterday that the state police, working with the South Kingstown Police Department, were investigating "allegations of criminal misconduct by an off-duty member."
There are two police reports on the early morning incident on Laurel Lane, one dated Sept. 5 and a memorandum dated Sept. 26.
The first report, written by Patrolman Robert F. Constantino II, says he responded around 2 a.m. to a complaint that several men were disturbing the peace on Laurel Lane. He was told by William Skwirz Sr., of 274 Laurel Lane, that he was holding a party for his stepson who had just returned from Iraq and that the guests would quiet down.
Constantino wrote that as he was leaving the scene, he was dispatched to 254 Laurel Lane to look into a reported assault. There, he said, Jeffrey Clark reported that William Skwirz Jr. approached him in threatening manner after Clark yelled at his dog to stop barking.
Clark said Skwirz, 23, of 7 Wampum Rd., Narragansett, "made a reference to wanting to fight him" as three of his friends stood by. The report says Skwirz punched Clark in the left temple, leaving an "egg," and that Clark "defended himself." Clark, the report says, asked Skwirz to get off his property. Clark declined medical attention, but said he wanted to press charges, the report says.
Constantino said he returned to 274 Laurel Lane, where he questioned the younger Skwirz and placed him in the rear of the cruiser after he stated he had hit Clark "in the head with his fist." He wrote that Clark identified Skwirz -- who said he had consumed a half-case of beer -- as the man who assaulted him.
"Words were exchanged and a brief struggle occurred," Constantino wrote. The report lists Sgt. Joyce Comstock as the assisting officer, but makes no mention of her in its narrative.
Skwirz was taken to the station, where he told Lt. Paul Horoho repeatedly he did not want to press charges against Clark. He was treated for a cut to his head and issued a summons to appear in court Sept. 16 to face a simple assault charge.
The second report, which Chief Vespia said he had requested, includes additional, and conflicting, information about the Sept. 5 incident.
In the later report, Constantino reiterated being called to a noisy party on Laurel Lane and then dispatched to a neighbor's house to look into an assault. Constantino wrote that when he talked to Clark he stated that he had just returned from a wedding where he had been drinking. Clark said that he yelled at the neighbor's dog to be quiet. A man, later identified at the younger Skwirz, appeared with several other males and told him to shut up.
He said that Skwirz struck him in the temple and then he punched Skwirz, according to the report. Clark told Constantino that he wanted to press charges and that he would write a witness statement.
According to Constantino, the officer returned to 274 Laurel Lane to question the younger Skwirz, who stated he had been involved in an altercation with Clark and that he had drunk 10 to 12 beers. Constantino arrested Skwirz, put him in the cruiser and returned to 254 Laurel Lane to pick up the witness statement and to have Clark come out to the car to identify Skwirz.
Constantino said "Clark opened the door and began to ask Skwirz why he assaulted him on his own property five feet from a marked state police cruiser."
He continued "Skwirz began to yell at Clark that he did not know he was a trooper."
Skwirz moved toward Clark in an aggressive manner in the back seat of the car, Constantino wrote.
"I heard some yelling and looked up. I saw Clark assault Skwirz in the back of the car several times," he wrote.
Constantino said he tried to stop Clark and closed the door. Clark yelled that Skwirz knew that he was a trooper and stated that he knew him from a previous arrest. (In 2000, Skwirz pleaded no contest to a felony assault with a dangerous weapon and weapons possession. He was sentenced to one-year probation.)
Constantino said he drove out of the driveway and onto Laurel Lane, when Clark said he wanted to speak with Skwirz again.
"I told him he was all set and there was no need," Constantino wrote. Clark insisted he wouldn't hit Skwirz again, but that he wanted to ask him a question.
"I opened the door and Clark began to speak with him again. He told him he was full of ... for saying he didn't know he was a trooper and again punched him," Constantino said.
Skwirz was taken to the station, where he stated he did not want to press charges. He was treated for a head wound.
Constantino said he told Lt. Horoho that Clark assaulted Skwirz after he had placed Skwirz under arrest.
Horoho asked Skwirz three times if he wished to press charges and told Skwirz "there was not going to be a cover-up."
"Skwirz stated he just wanted it to go away and just let it end. He stated all he wanted was to get into college and begin his life," Constantino wrote. Constantino said he gave Skwirz a ride to his home in Narragansett and that he thanked him for his help.
Skwirz refused to comment when reached by cell phone yesterday.
When asked about the charge against Skwirz, Vespia said that, Clark, 33, requested by affidavit on Sept. 15 that the South Kingstown Police Department drop the charge against Skwirz.
Katie Mulvaney can be reached at kmulvanexxxprojo.com or 277-7417.
Written by Craig
Spanish translation - Traducción al español
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