July 28, 2014

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test

‘Riot’ hearing put on hold

Questions surround arrests at Red Parrot in Lorain last month

Defense attorney Michael Camera (left) accepted a continuance Thursday. See video footage from the arraignment here.

LORAIN — In front of a packed courtroom, Lorain Municipal Court Judge Thomas Elwell Jr. agreed to give a little more time to determine if the charges filed by Lorain police officers against nine adults partying at the Red Parrot Cafe were warranted.

City Prosecutor Jeff Szabo asked for the continuance Thursday afternoon because the July 29 incident is still being investigated by police. Also, he told Elwell he is seeking video and audio recordings of the evening that could shed some light on what happened.

According to police reports, about 10 officers were called to the bar on the 500 block of Broadway just after midnight to remove a belligerent, intoxicated patron who is also accused a breaking a window at the bar. But when they arrived, they not only arrested 23-year-old Haydn Baxter, but went inside and ended up arresting eight more people on charges including aggravated rioting, resisting arrest and disorderly conduct intoxication.

It is those arrests that have fueled outrage.

Those arrested say officers came into the bar determined to shut the place down by any means necessary and, in the process, used brute force and violent tactics to subdue a bunch of college kids.

The discrepancy has motivated police Lt. Jim Rohner to review the case to determine if officers violated policy and procedure in their pursuit to restore order. His investigation continues.

After not meeting with any objections from defense attorneys, Elwell agreed to continue the hearing to Sept. 13.

The decision was made during a preliminary hearing during which three defense attorneys representing the group planned to have their clients testify that they were not resisting arrest, acting disorderly or starting a riot when officers got to the bar.

“They thought we were going to be a bunch of poor, uneducated kids who they could just rough up and throw in jail without anyone caring,” said Laura Zawistowski, a graduate student at Western Michigan University who is studying to be a teacher.
Zawistowski, who was charged with aggravated rioting, disorderly conduct and failure to disperse, said she is fighting the charges because not only is her reputation at stake, but also her future livelihood.

“I’m a college student. This could affect my student aid and follow me for the rest of my life,” she said.
Doug Strausbaugh, who also was arrested that night, said watching the behavior of police has really rocked his belief in law enforcement.

“A shepherd is outnumbered by his sheep, but there is no justification in beating and arresting his sheep,” he said.

That’s why defense attorney Michael Camera said he agreed to the continuation.

“The more police can find out about what happened at the Red Parrot, the better,” he said.

Contact Lisa Roberson at 653-6268 or lroberson@chroniclet.com.