Local News

Two Durham Officers Face Assault Charges

Posted July 27, 2006
Updated March 4, 2008

— Two Durham police officers will be charged with assault in connection with an incident at a Raleigh bar last week, the Durham Police Department said Thursday.


The Raleigh Police Department issued criminal summonses charging Durham police Officer Gary P. Lee and Durham police Officer Scott C. Tanner with simple assault in connection with a July 20 incident at Blinco's sports bar on Glenwood Avenue.

Rene Thomas, 29, a cook at the bar, alleges that he exchanged racial slurs with at least one of the men in the Blinco's parking lot. He also alleges that one of the men also tried to punch him and that another kicked him.

According to the summonses, Lee attempted to strike Thomas and tackled him, causing him to fall to the ground, and that Tanner kicked Thomas in the head.

"When we found out they were police officers, that's when it really started to get me emotionally -- like, 'Oh my gosh, these guys are police officers, and they really tried to jump me,'" Thomas told WRAL on Saturday.

At a news conference on Thursday, Durham police Chief Steve Chalmers reiterated previous comments from Durham police officials, saying the charges are being taken seriously and that the police department is conducting an internal investigation into the allegations.

"We hold (Durham police officer) to a certain level, and we want, not only the community, but we want the officers who serve in this organization to know this will not be tolerated," Chalmers said.

Both Lee and Tanner remain on administrative duty with pay with the Durham Police Department, Durham police said.

Tanner, 33, joined the Durham Police Department in 1997 and is assigned to the Traffic Services Division. Lee, 38, joined the department in 1999 and is assigned to the Special Operations Division.

Three other Durham police officers, as well as a former Durham officer who had resigned from the department prior to the alleged assault had also been under investigation by Raleigh police.

Effective Thursday, Sgt. Mark D. Gottlieb, Investigator James A. Griffin Jr. and Officer Richard D. Clayton have been restored to full-duty status pending the outcome of the Durham Police Department's internal investigation.

No criminal charges have been filed against Gottlieb, Griffin and Clayton. Raleigh police spokesman Jim Sughrue said Thursday that no additional charges are expected.

Chalmers said the internal investigation would probably not be complete for about three weeks and said that the other three officers could still face internal sanctions.

A criminal summons charges a felony, misdemeanor or infraction. Unlike an arrest warrant, a criminal summons does not authorize an officer to take the defendant into custody. Instead, it orders a defendant to appear in court on a specified date and the defendant does not have to post a bond.

Simple assault is a Class 2 misdemeanor, which carries a maximum fine of $1,000 and up to 60 days in jail on a Level 3 conviction -- five or more prior convictions. A conviction, Chalmers said, does not automatically mean an officer would lose his job.


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