NEWTON FALLS Sheriff's office probes cop's actions
The sheriff said the investigation should take about two weeks.
By PEGGY SINKOVICH
VINDICATOR TRUMBULL STAFF
WARREN -- The Trumbull County Sheriff's Department is trying to determine if a Newton Falls police officer used excessive force during the April 2 arrest of a Garrettsville woman.
Sheriff Thomas Altiere said Tuesday he has assigned Maj. James Phillips and Capt. Gary Bacon to investigate the actions of Sgt. Joseph Zimomra.
"We received a letter from Prosecutor Dennis Watkins asking us to look into the matter," Altiere said, adding the investigation will take about two weeks.
"When we are done, we will send our findings to the prosecutor's office and the prosecutor will then determine what action to take," Altiere said.
A videotape from a camera in a Newton Falls police officer's car shows Zimomra repeatedly striking the woman on the head with a flashlight.
Zimomra has been suspended for 30 days for his actions during the arrest after he and two other officers were dispatched to investigate a broken window at a local bar.
Zimomra has not been charged criminally.
Connie Casseday, 22, of Garrettsville, was treated with seven stitches and faces charges of assaulting a police officer, obstructing official business, drunkenness and disorderly conduct.
Her companion, John Lusher, 23, also of Garrettsville, is charged with resisting arrest, vandalism and drunkenness and disorderly conduct.
Both have pleaded innocent. A preliminary hearing is scheduled for Tuesday.
Another videotape from a camera on a building near where the arrest took place must also be reviewed. That tape shows what took place three seconds before the cruiser got there, authorities said.
In a statement to his superiors, Zimomra describes chasing Casseday and Lusher in his cruiser as they ran from the bar through back alleys of Newton Falls.
Zimomra says that as he turned in to an alley behind Covered Bridge Pizza, he drove past the woman to try to catch up with the man. He said that he stopped the cruiser, got out and that the woman started yelling that he hit the man with the car.
Zimomra said he saw the male on the ground and as he started to handcuff Lusher, Casseday came near him and he thought she was going for his gun.
"I then felt something as if I was being hit," Zimomra wrote in his report. "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."
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.
The tape does not show her being handcuffed.
The 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, George Kalafut, contends he was hit.