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NEWTON FALLS Officers' accounts differ on altercation



Published: Wed, April 24, 2002 @ 12:00 a.m.



The police officer has not been criminally charged, and city officials say they are not investigating the case.

By STEPHEN SIFF

and PEGGY SINKOVICH

VINDICATOR TRUMBULL STAFF

NEWTON FALLS -- City police officers offer varying accounts of the drunk and disorderly arrest during which police Sgt. Joseph Zimomra repeatedly struck a 115-pound woman in the head with a flashlight.

Zimomra has been suspended for 30 days for his actions during the arrest, which occurred after he and two other officers were dispatched to investigate a broken window at a local bar.

Zimomra has not been charged criminally, and city officials say they are not investigating the case and do not know of any other agency investigating the matter.

Connie Casseday, 22, of Garrettsville, was treated with seven stitches and faces felony charges of assaulting a police officer and obstructing official business, as well as misdemeanor drunk and disorderly conduct.

Her companion, John Lusher, 23, also of Garrettsville, is facing felony charges of resisting arrest and vandalism, and a misdemeanor charge of drunk and disorderly conduct.

Both have pleaded innocent. A preliminary hearing is scheduled for next month.

Zimomra's statement

In a statement about the arrest to his superiors, Zimomra describes chasing Casseday and Lusher in his police car as they ran from the bar through back alleys of Newton Falls.

Zimomra says that as he turned in to the alley behind Covered Bridge Pizza, he drove past the woman to try to catch up with the man.

"As we approached the cement block building behind the old Western Auto store, I was on the left side of the male and I stopped. When I looked out my right windows, I could not see the male and thought he turned south and turned around," Zimomra wrote.

"I exited my car and observed the female approximately 30 feet from the rear of my car and she yelled at me, 'You ran over him.' I did not feel anything out of the ordinary, as to indicate I made contact with anything/anybody.

"I did not see the male and I went to the rear of my cruiser and observed the male on the ground on the right side of the car near the right rear tire," he wrote.

Confrontation with woman

In the statement, Zimomra says that as he began to handcuff Lusher, who was not moving, Casseday came over and began yelling at him.

"I was bent over the male at this time and I told her to get back a couple of times. I continued to handcuff the male when the female came at me as if she was trying to get a hold of my weapon. I then felt something as if I was being hit.

"All I had in my left hand was a Streamlight Stinger Flashlight. When the female made contact with me, I stood up and swung with my left hand at the female, missing. I swung again, contacting the female in the head; she fell back on her butt, but was still in a position to come at me again. I swung again, making contact with the female in the head."

This was the scene that greeted Sgt. Richard Lisum and officer Brian Floor as they pulled up in their cruiser.

The tape from a video camera in their car shows Zimomra standing over Casseday, hitting her in the head with his flashlight. No tape was made from the camera in Zimomra's car because the camera in Zimomra's cruiser was off, records state.

The second car arrived eight seconds after Zimomra, according to a tape of the event captured by a camera positioned in the alley, said George Kalafut, who represents both Lusher and Casseday.

Other cops' accounts

"It appeared as though this female was attempting to pull Sgt. Zimomra down," officer Brian Floor wrote in his statement.

"Sgt. Zimomra in defense of his self [sic] struck Connie with a closed hand. After speaking with Sgt. Zimomra, he advised that as he was attempting to cuff the male subject, Connie jumped on the sergeant's back. Sgt. Zimomra stated he attempted to push Connie away and she came at him again striking him several times in the upper body area," Floor wrote.

There were no reports of injury to Zimomra.

The tape, viewed by The Vindicator, shows Casseday with her arms by her side. On the tape, Zimomra does not appear to remove the handcuffs from his belt until well after the confrontation with Casseday. She is never handcuffed.

Lisum reported only seeing Zimomra pushing Casseday to the ground.

"Sgt. Zimomra stated he thought he hit the male with his cruiser," Lisum wrote.

The Trumbull County Sheriff's Department was called to take a report on the auto accident, but the deputies said Lusher denied being hit by the car. His lawyer, Kalafut, maintains he was.

siff@vindy.comsinkovich@vindy.com




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