October 21, 2014

Elyria
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Bar melee felony charges dropped

LORAIN — Felony charges were dropped Thursday against six men and women who say Lorain police used excessive force at the Red Parrot Cafe in July.

Lorain city Assistant Prosecutor Jeff Szabo asked Municipal Court Judge Thomas Elwell to drop the aggravated rioting charges because of discussions he had with Lorain police. But Szabo said he might file the same charges later.

The six defendants, as well as two other people who were arrested July 29 at the downtown Red Parrot, still face misdemeanor charges of disorderly conduct and resisting arrest, which they all plan on fighting in court.

ADAM WRIGHT / CHRONICLE
Joe Fish (left), 23, Laura Zawistowski, 23, and Sean Fish, 22, appear in court on Thursday to face charges of aggravated rioting, disorderly conduct and resisting arrest.

“I hope that this helps people not be afraid to stand up for themselves,” 23-year-old Joe Fish said about why he wants to fight the charges. “I’m happy the felony was dropped, and we’ll just have to see what happened with the other charges.”

About 10 officers went to the Broadway bar just after midnight to remove an intoxicated patron who broke a window, but they ended up arresting eight other people in what police reports described as a riot.

Those arrested say police were trying to shut down the establishment by any means necessary and used brute force and violent tactics in the process.

Public outcry and media attention on the incident prompted police Lt. Jim Rohner, who handles internal investigations, to review what happened that night to determine if officers violated policy and procedure in their pursuit to restore order. He is still investigating the matter.

Bar owner Mitch Karczewski attended Thursday’s court hearing and said the dropped charges shows that prosecutors have no case.

“None of these kids are guilty of anything,” he said. “The police overreacted. If anything, the cops should be on trial.”

Attorney Michael Camera, who represents six of the defendants, said he’d be happy to take the case to trial if that’s what his clients want because it’s clear to him that the police were wrong that night.

“I’ve spoken to my clients, and I was able to see what each told me and confirm their statements,” he said. “It’s clear that none of them were guilty of these misdemeanors."

Contact Adam Wright at 653-6257 or awright@chroniclet.com.