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Ex-Durham Cop Found Guilty of Assault

A former Durham police officer has been found guilty of assaulting a cook outside a Raleigh sports restaurant. Another officer involved in the incident was found not guilty.

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DURHAM, N.C. — A former Durham police was found guilty Thursday of assaulting a cook outside at a Raleigh restaurant last year.

Scott C. Tanner, 33, was sentenced to 60 hours of community service and must attend anger management classes.

Tanner was one of two former police officers on trial for assaulting Rene Dennis Thomas, 29, in the parking lot of Blinco's Sports Restaurant & Bar on Glenwood Avenue in July 2006.

Thomas said that he exchanged racial slurs with a group of men in a truck speeding through the restaurant parking lot. He alleged that one of the men tried to punch him and that another man kicked him.

Tanner and Gary P. Lee, 38, were fired from the Durham Police Department following an internal investigation into the incident.

Lee was found not guilty Thursday in connection with the assault. Defense attorneys said he was protecting Tanner, who had been hospitalized about a month before with cancer that left him in a physically weakened state.

Lee testified that when he saw Thomas and Tanner in a verbal confrontation, he became concerned for his friend's safety.

"The whole time, I'm walking up, I'm like, 'If this guy hits him with his condition, he's going to break a bone,'" Lee said. "I don't know how that weakens the bones or whatever. I was just scared. I was like, 'Why isn't anyone stepping in. Why isn't anyone doing something?'"

District Court Judge Debra Sasser, who threw out the assault charges in October 2006, ruled that Lee's actions under the law were permitted.

The case was being heard for a second time, because Sasser threw out the assault charges, saying prosecutors had not established that a crime had occurred in Wake County. A higher-level judge, however, reinstated those charges.


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