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Raleigh Police Interview Durham Officers In Assault Investigation

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DURHAM, N.C. — Raleigh police on Monday interviewed two Durham police officers involved in the

Duke lacrosse rape case

as they investigated last week's alleged assault of a cook outside of a Glenwood Avenue sports bar.

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    Durham police Deputy Chief R.H. Hodge said officers from Raleigh spoke with Sgt. Mark Gottlieb, the supervisor of the lacrosse investigation, and Officer Richard Clayton, who reports to Gottlieb and has assisted on the Duke case, at Durham police headquarters. Raleigh officers were also interviewing several other Durham officers, but Hodge would not say how many.

    Durham police Chief Steve Chalmers, however, has said six officers are being investigated.

    "We take professional conduct very seriously and professional conduct for police officers applies to them on-duty, off-duty, within their jurisdiction, outside their jurisdiction," Hodge said. "We're going to investigate this matter and should we find there's some misconduct, disciplinary action will be taken."

    Both Gottlieb and Clayton were placed on administrative duty Friday, the day after a cook at Blinco's sports bar in Raleigh said he exchanged words -- including some racial slurs -- with the passenger of a black truck as it sped away from the restaurant.

    "That really concerns me, and if one of my officers did that, he or she should be concerned," Hodge said.

    Rene Dennis Thomas, a 29-year-old cook at the bar, has said the truck stopped and he found himself surrounded by at least three more cars. Thomas said he fell to the ground after several men got out of the cars, and he was hit and a shoe grazed his face.

    Durham police initially refused to comment on the reason behind the officers' change in duty status or whether it was related to the assault allegations, citing department policy and state personnel privacy laws. But at a news conference Monday, Hodge was asked if Raleigh police were interviewing Gottlieb and Clayton.

    "Yes," Hodge said. "Now you've made your connection."

    No charges have been filed as part of the assault investigation, and a Raleigh police spokesman did not return calls on Monday to The Associated Press seeking comment. Hodge said Durham's internal affairs unit also planned to investigate Thomas' complaint, but had not yet interviewed all the Durham officers involved.

    "We saw no need to get in front of Raleigh's criminal investigation," Hodge said.

    Hodge said several Durham officers were at Blinco's on Thursday night, including some not involved in the investigation. He would not say if any other Durham officers had been moved to administrative duty, which means they are working from a desk and must be available to internal affairs.

    When asked specifically about Investigator Benjamin Himan, the lead investigator in the lacrosse case, police spokeswoman Kammie Michael said he remains on regular duty.

    No criminal charges have been filed in the case against any Durham officers, but Hodge said that he expected that Raleigh police would have a decision later Monday or Tuesday in the case.

    Hodge also said that the investigation into last week's alleged assault should have no effect on the rape investigation, in which an exotic dancer alleges she was beaten and raped by three Duke lacrosse athletes at a party in March.

    In April, a Durham County grand jury indicted Reade Seligmann, Collin Finnerty on first-degree charges of rape, kidnapping and sexual assault. A month later, David Evans was indicted on the same charges. Defense attorneys strongly have proclaimed the players' innocence.

    Attorneys involved in the case told WRAL on Monday that without much information, they did not know in what way, if any, the Raleigh investigation would have on the rape case.

    District Attorney Mike Nifong, who is prosecuting the lacrosse case, said Monday that "it would not be appropriate for me to comment" on the assault investigation.