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Friday night fight at nightclub on Worthington Street injures officers

Date: 11/21/2012

By G. Michael Dobbs

SPRINGFIELD — Last week, Mayor Domenic Sarno's announcement that a settlement had been made allowing several clubs to have a 2 a.m. entertainment license coincided with a violent event on Worthington Street.

Sgt. John Delaney of the Springfield Police Department confirmed to Reminder Publications that four officers had been injured — one with a serious concussion and another with a broken finger — when trying to control a fight involving as many as 60 people that spilled outside of the Fat Cat Bar and Grill about 1:50 a.m. Nov. 17. Two of the injured officers are expected to return to duty later this week.

Delaney said that essentially every on-duty patrolman at that time — between 15 and 20 — was involved in the incident, leaving the rest of the city unprotected.

Delaney said, "Officer Eleni Mendez of the Springfield Police Department was working the 'extra-detail' job at Fat Cat's bar located are 232 Worthington St., when a huge fight broke out inside the bar. Officer Mendez went into the disturbance and attempted to break up the combatants who were female. During the struggle Officer Mendez was punched severely in the back of the head from behind. The officer was jumped by other combatants and kicked and punched again several times in the head.

"Officer Juan Estrada, who was working with Officer Mendez, was also attacked. The officers could not call for help and Officer Mendez was able to key her portable hand unit and the dispatcher could tell that she was in trouble. An 'all cars' was dispatched to all units that officers were in trouble. As officers arrived the bar melee had exploded into an estimated 60 drunk bar patrons fighting. As officers attempted to break up the disturbance they were greeted with resistance and the patrons were fighting the police officers," he continued.

Among those arrested were Allan Wilson, Miguel Ofray, Madeline Lopez and Tiffany Pizarro of Springfield, Gissette Lopez and Hector Lopez of Chicopee, Christopher Braun of Manchester, Conn., and Hector Diaz of San Leizario, Texas. Charges included assault and battery on a police officer, resisting arrest and disorderly conduct.

The bar was written up for violations to the Board of License Commissioners, Delaney added.

The city had reached an agreement with the owners of Scores, Fifth Alarm, Oz (now known as Fat Tuesday's) and Pure to close their businesses at 1 a.m. in order for Mardi Gras, Center Stage and Xstatic to once again have entertainment until 2 a.m.

The owners of the clubs had filed a lawsuit against the city.

The settlement also had stipulations for the three bars: no admittance and/or re-admittance to the establishments after 1 a.m., the implementation of a comprehensive security plans including Criminal Offender Record Information checks for employees, the employment of a full-time security director, remedial measures for loitering, Training and Intervention Procedures for Servers certification and training for employees, camera systems, dress codes, visual inspection of all patrons upon entrance and extra detail police officers Friday through Saturday nights at Center Stage and Mardi Gras.

Since shutting down entertainment at 1 a.m. from 2 a.m. earlier this year, the Springfield Police Department has reported a 35 percent reduction in "calls for service" to the department from the downtown Business Improvement District between midnight and 3 a.m. This figure is compared to the number of calls for service between April 6 — when the curfew began — and Oct. 11, to the number of calls during the same period in 2011. The number of calls for service dropped to 794 during the same period, compared to 1,197 in 2011.

"The sole purpose of imposing these regulations was a concern over public safety for patrons to downtown businesses, and police officers on the job. We have seen an improvement in public safety and I want to thank the responsible owners who have cooperated with the implementation of these new regulations. If the trends continue, the businesses and the public will benefit as the perception of the area changes," Sarno said.