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NEWTON FALLS ASSAULT PROBE Woman says she beat female first



Published: Sat, May 4, 2002 @ 12:00 a.m.



A preliminary hearing is scheduled for Tuesday.

By PEGGY SINKOVICH

VINDICATOR TRUMBULL STAFF

NEWTON FALLS -- Days after the Trumbull County Sheriff's Department said it is investigating a Newton Falls police officer caught on tape assaulting a female, a 22-year-old woman has come forward -- saying she beat her first.

Robin Grunder of East Jay Street filed the report Thursday, a month after the alleged assault took place.

Grunder could not be reached to comment. But according to the report, she was at Chassis Lounge on April 2 and said Connie Casseday, 22, of Garrettsville, and some of her friends started an argument in the bar.

Grunder said two men with Casseday started a fight with others in the bar.

A man at the bar asked Grunder to help him get Casseday out because he "couldn't put his hands on her," the report states.

Fight ensues

Grunder wrote that she pushed Casseday outside. She said that Casseday was screaming. She said Casseday tried to get back inside but she pushed her to the ground.

"She tried to get back up and grabbed my sweatshirt -- it ripped," Grunder wrote. "She tried to swing, but I pinned her to the ground and punched her full force in the face four to five times. I told her to get up and leave, so I pulled her up and pushed her toward the car they were in."

No criminal assault charges have been filed against Grunder.

Grunder also wrote that she saw Casseday throw something at the glass door.

Casseday and a man then fled, Grunder stated. Employees at the bar notified police.

"I find this interesting because no other statements from witnesses said anything about Ms. Casseday being in any fights," said George Kalafut, Casseday's attorney.

"Also, Ms. Casseday had no injuries to her face, except for one small one by her hairline, where the officer hit her the first time. Her other injury was on the top of her head.

"I also find it interesting that Robin Grunder's mother works for the city," Kalafut said.

On the tape

A videotape from a camera in a Newton Falls police officer's car shows Sgt. Joseph Zimomra repeatedly striking Casseday 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 the bar.

Zimomra has not been charged criminally.

Casseday 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.

Officer's account

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 into 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 man on the ground and as he started to handcuff Lusher, Casseday came near him, and he thought she was going for his gun.

The tape, viewed by The Vindicator, shows Casseday with her arms by her side.

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. Kalafut contends he was hit.

sinkovich@vindy.com




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