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BCI to investigate roles of detectives in Niles bar brawl



Published: Sat, November 17, 2001 @ 12:00 a.m.



State agents are expected to talk to the sheriff Monday, officials said.

By PEGGY SINKOVICH

VINDICATOR TRUMBULL STAFF

WARREN -- The Ohio Bureau of Criminal Identification and Investigation has been asked to probe allegations into a reported bar fight involving two off-duty Trumbull County sheriff's detectives.

Ernie Cook, chief of operations for the sheriff's department, said a letter was faxed Friday to BCI asking for assistance.

"I think it's better that an outside agency looks at this so no one thinks we are trying to cover anything up," Cook said. "I believe BCI will be willing to help us."

BCI agents are expected to talk to Cook and the sheriff Monday, officials said.

The department also is conducting an internal investigation into the brawl.

Sheriff Thomas Altiere said that he wants his department to find out if detectives Peter Pizzulo and Anthony Leshnack were involved in a fight Saturday at Gasoline Alley, 500 Vienna Ave., Niles.

Altiere said he does not know the details of the matter because he has not talked to the detectives. The sheriff added that because an internal investigation is under way, it's better for him not to ask the detectives.

Pizzulo and Leshnack could not be reached.

Police report: A Niles police report says Leshnack told investigating officers early Saturday that he was in Gasoline Alley with a friend shortly after midnight Nov. 10.

As he was leaving, he was jumped by three or four people, knocked to the ground, kicked and punched.

The report indicates Leshnack had marks on the side of his face.

In a separate report, Steven Tabor of Nash Street told police he was walking to Gasoline Alley after he and his friend Paul Benedict, no age or address given, were involved in an altercation in the rear lot. A man punched Benedict in the face, Tabor said.

Police talked to the man, whom they later identified as Pizzulo, who said Tabor and Benedict started the fight.

Officials at Niles Municipal Court said Friday afternoon that no charges have been filed.

Tabor declined to comment. Benedict could not be reached to comment.

Altiere said he was surprised by the allegation that Leshnack and Pizzulo were involved in a fight because both are good officers.

Reviews of Pizzulo and Leshnack's files show that both men have received numerous letters of commendation. There is no indication of previous discipline. Pizzulo started with the department in 1991. Leshnack was hired in 1995.

Both detectives are members of the sheriff's SWAT and dive teams.

sinkovich@vindy.com




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