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NILES FBI talks to official about bar brawl



Published: Tue, November 20, 2001 @ 12:00 a.m.



Two reports filed with Niles police offer conflicting stories of what happened.

By DENISE DICK

and PEGGY SINKOVICH

VINDICATOR TRUMBULL STAFF

NILES -- The FBI talked to municipal court officials about a Nov. 10 bar brawl that police reports say involved two off-duty Trumbull County deputy sheriffs.

Bruce Bennett, city prosecutor, said FBI agents talked to him about the case last week, and he classified it as a "courtesy stop." Although no charges have been filed, Bennett said the investigation into the fight at Gasoline Alley, 500 Vienna Ave., is ongoing.

Reports state that off-duty detectives Peter Pizzulo and Anthony Leshnack were involved in a brawl outside of the bar.

Police Chief Bruce Simeone said that FBI agents didn't talk to him about the case but that the investigation continues. Witnesses have come forward, Simeone said.

"When the investigation is complete, we'll turn it over to the prosecutor," the chief said.

Conflicting accounts: Two reports filed with Niles police offer conflicting stories of what happened.

In a report filed by Leshnack, he told investigating officers early Saturday that he was in Gasoline Alley with a friend shortly after midnight. 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 a friend were involved in an altercation in the rear lot. Tabor told police a man punched him in the face.

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

State investigates: The sheriff's department has asked the Ohio Bureau of Identification and Investigation to probe the allegations.

Bret Crow, a spokesman with BCI, said agents have started a preliminary inquiry to determine if there was any criminal wrongdoing.

Sheriff Thomas Altiere, meanwhile, said his office has also started an internal investigation.

"We will be trying to determine if they violated any of our department policy and procedures," the sheriff said.

Pizzulo started with the department in 1991, and Leshnack was hired in 1995. Both detectives are members of the sheriff's SWAT and dive teams.

dick@vindy.com sinkovich@vindy.com




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