An internal-affairs investigation into an alleged fight outside a bar in Springfield, Mass., involving off-duty Springfield police officers, resident Paul Cumby and three other men has brought to light new information, including missing video footage, contradictory testimony by officers and the fact that patrolmen responding to the fight could not explain why they did not search the bar for suspects after the confrontation.
According to MassLive.com, some details about the 2015 fight in Nathan Bill’s Bar and Restaurant were released to the public in February, after Hampden County, Mass., District Attorney Anthony Gulluni released a report regarding his decision not to pursue criminal charges.
Gulluni acknowledged that Cumby, his cousins Jozelle and Jackie Ligon, and their friend Michael Cintron were indeed victims of assault, but declined to press charges, citing lack of clear identification.
Cumby was seriously injured in the attack, suffering a broken leg and some loosened teeth, while his companions sustained minor injuries. Some 12 Springfield officers ended up facing disciplinary charges in relation to the case.
On the night of April 7, 2015, Cumby and his party were drinking at the bar. Jozelle Ligon got into a verbal altercation with another group of patrons over whether he had whistled at a woman in their group. Cumby’s party told investigators from the Internal Investigations Unit that a bar worker identified the other group of patrons as off-duty Springfield police officers.
Uniformed officers responded to a report about the initial argument around 1:15 a.m. and identified four-off duty officers: Daniel Billingsley, Christian Cicero, Anthony Cicero and Melissa Rodriguez. Cumby and his party were asked to leave, which they did, but they stayed near the bar. (Cumby later said that he was waiting until the bar closed to get his vehicle from the parking lot.)
About 50 minutes after the argument, Cumby and his group were attacked in a nearby parking lot. Cumby was left with a fractured ankle and four damaged front teeth. Jackie Ligon was hit and kicked in the torso and head while on the ground, and Jozelle Ligon and Cintron sustained cuts and bruises.
Cumby’s group said that between eight and 15 white men between the ages of 25 and 45 attacked them. Cumby filed a complaint with the Springfield Police Department on May 7, resulting in all four victims being interviewed several times in the following months.
After the fight, two of the off-duty officers called in sick for two days. Billingsley reported “severe migraines,” while Christian Cicero reported a broken toe.
All of the off-duty officers involved asserted their Fifth Amendment right not to testify, a fact that cannot be used against them criminally but could be used as evidence in the disciplinary hearing.
Although the officers refused to give statements to investigators, another off-duty officer who was also seen at the bar, Jose Diaz, gave testimony that contradicted a uniformed officer’s account before opting to remain silent on the issue.
Diaz told Andrew that he arrived at the bar around 1:50 a.m. to help the owner, whom he knows, clean up. He left around 2 a.m., he said, and did not recall seeing any other officers at the bar. However, when pressed for more details, Diaz reportedly lost track of the conversation.
“I asked Officer Diaz if he was present at the assault. Officer Diaz experienced difficulty understanding the question,” Andrew wrote. “Officer Diaz states he didn’t know what was going on.”
Diaz later insisted that he was not there during the fight. However, a responding officer reported seeing Diaz at the bar after 3 a.m., a timeline that would place him there after the fight, and well after the time he said that he had left.
Andrew asked Diaz about the conflicting information and then asked where he was before arriving at the bar.
“Officer Diaz stated that he should consult with an attorney,” Andrew wrote. “I asked Officer Diaz if he wanted to assert his Fifth Amendment Rights. Officer Diaz stated that he did want to assert his Fifth Amendment Rights.”
MassLive notes that Police Sgt. William Andrew, who wrote the internal-affairs report, scoured the area near the scene of the fight for video evidence. The bar did not have cameras trained on its parking lot. A Bank of America near the bar did, but although the footage showed activity near the bar, it did not show the fight itself. There is also a distinct 10-minute or so gap in the video footage, with no explanation as to why.
“A further review of the video showed that the video jumps from around 2:39:16 a.m. to 2:50:36,” Andrew wrote in his report.
The video showed cruisers arriving at the time of the initial verbal confrontation, around 1:15 a.m., and also showed Christian Cicero talking with on-duty officers. The uniformed officers left at 1:25 a.m., and a taxi pulled through the parking lot at 1:48 a.m.
At around 2:09, another cruiser pulls into the bar parking lot before quickly leaving. Another cruiser and an ambulance arrive on the scene and then also leave. Between 2:21 and 2:30 a.m., four white men in plain clothes enter the parking lot, speak to each other, and then go in and out of the video frame. At one point, some of them got into a black pickup truck.
At around 2:33 a.m., cruisers began to enter the bar’s parking lot again, and then there’s the gap.
Also worth noting: Several officers ran background checks on Cumby and his companions following reports of the altercation, and police did not search the bar after the fight.
Cumby told MassLive that he told responding officers that he saw some of his attackers in the bar when police brought him back to get his truck after the incident. However, although uniformed officers did search the area for suspects, they never went back into the bar.
Officers Nathaniel Perez and James D’Amour had both responded to the earlier argument at Nathan Bill’s, and Perez had identified Billingsley, Rodriguez and Cicero at the scene at 1:15 a.m. They later responded to the 2:04 a.m. report of a fight, and after arriving searched Island Pond Road in the their squad car but were unable to locate any suspects.
Andrew asked why, given that the officers both knew the injured men had been involved in the earlier verbal dispute, they did not search Nathan Bill’s for the assailants.
“Officer Perez stated that he responded back to Murphy’s to assist the other officers with the four males. I pointed out that there were four officers and an ambulance on the scene to assist the four males,” Andrew wrote in his report. “Officer Perez could not give any other reason as to why he didn’t search Nathan Bill’s.”
D’Amour did not offer an answer, the report said.
“Officer D’Amour could not articulate why, knowing that the four males were involved in a disturbance at Nathan Bill’s didn’t he search Nathan Bill’s for the assailants,” Andrew wrote.
Oh? Isn’t that interesting.
Two other officers also responded to the initial argument and the fight, but neither reported searching the bar, and neither was questioned as to why. Plus, the officer who noticed Diaz standing outside the bar after the fight also did not report searching the bar or speaking to Diaz at the time of the incident.
Read more at MassLive.