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Durham PD Fires Cops Charged In Alleged Bar Brawl

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DURHAM, N.C. — Two Durham police officers charged with assaulting a man outside a Raleigh sports bar in July have been fired, Durham Police Chief Steve Chalmers said at a news conference Thursday afternoon.

The termination of Gary P. Lee and Scott C. Tanner was the result of a nearly two-month-long internal investigation into allegations that they assaulted Rene Dennis Thomas, a 29-year-old cook at Blinco's Sports Restaurant & Bar on Glenwood Avenue.

Thomas told authorities that on July 20, he exchanged racial slurs with at least one of the officers in the Blinco's parking lot. He also alleged that one of the men tried to punch him and that another kicked him.

Lee and Tanner were later charged with simple assault. According to court documents, Lee attempted to strike Thomas and tackled him, causing him to fall to the ground, and Tanner kicked Thomas in the head.

Chalmers said Thursday that the two officers made a terrible mistake. He described them as good officers, but said that having them remain on the police force would only erode the public's confidence in the department.

"One thing we want to make clear: We don't have a mob mentality here," Chalmers said. "We don't have officers going out getting intoxicated and jumping on innocent citizens."

Neither Lee nor Tanner were available for comment following the news conference. Thomas told WRAL that the incident was an unfortunate situation and that he wished it had never had reached the point that it has.

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, but were later cleared of criminal charges.

Chalmers said those officers -- Sgt. Mark D. Gottlieb, Investigator James A. Griffin Jr. and Officer Richard D. Clayton -- would not face any disciplinary action. The internal probe found that they had walked up during the confrontation and that they were not involved.

Tanner, 33, joined the Durham Police Department in 1997 and was assigned to the Traffic Services Division. Lee, 38, joined the department in 1999 and was assigned to the Special Operations Division. The two had been on administrative leave since the incident.

Both are expected in court in Wake County on the assault charges later this month.

The officers, who were off duty at the time of the alleged assault, had been at Blinco's that night for a going-away party.


Julia Lewis, Reporter
Don Ingle, Photographer
Kelly Gardner, Web Editor

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