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Detroit cop probed after fight injures bar customer

George Hunter
The Detroit News

Detroit police officials have opened a criminal investigation into a commander who allegedly failed to inform his bosses he’d been involved in a fight last week that left a restaurant customer hospitalized with severe head injuries.

Cmdr. Timothy Leach was suspended after police officials found out about the March 11 incident. Leach was moonlighting as a bouncer in the Ottava Via restaurant on Michigan Avenue when the alleged altercation occurred during the St. Patrick’s Day parade in Corktown.

It’s unclear exactly what sparked the scuffle, but it left Michael Karpovich, 41, of Washington Township in the hospital with multiple skull fractures, said family attorney Jennifer Damico of the Mike Morse law firm.

“He’s still unresponsive,” Damico said. “The doctors had to remove part of his skull to alleviate the pressure.”

Detroit Police Chief James Craig said Leach’s job at the restaurant was not part of the police department’s Secondary Employment program. “It was an unauthorized outside employment,” Craig said.

Craig said hospital officials were initially told Karpovich had hurt himself in a fall, and did not inform police. “They wouldn’t tell us if it was just a fall,” Craig said. “A few days later, the man’s brother had been hearing (Karpovich) had been assaulted by a bouncer, so he reported it to the Third Precinct.”

Precinct detectives immediately launched an investigation, Craig said. “When they reviewed the videotape, they recognized the commander,” he said. “He had never notified us of this encounter, as is required by policy.

“Based on what we saw on the video, we have opened a criminal investigation, and the commander was suspended,” the chief said.

Craig said detectives are interviewing witnesses and other video captured of the incident.

“There is no indication the commander identified himself as a police officer during the incident,” he said.

Damico said she isn’t sure what set off the altercation. “Nobody we spoke with said he was being unruly,” she said. “At this point, we just want answers, and we’re working with the Detroit police to try to get to the bottom of this.”

Damico said hospital staff was told Karpovich had injured himself in a fall. “But his injuries were inconsistent with a slip and fall,” she said. “These were multiple head injuries.

“His family just wants to know why nobody from Detroit police ever called them to let them know this had happened,” Damico said.

Craig said the department didn’t know about the incident until after Karpovich’s brother reported it to police. “The hospital never informed us, because they thought it was a slip and fall, and Leach didn’t tell us. As soon as we found out about this, we took immediate action.”

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Twitter: @GeorgeHunter_DN