Off-duty cops face discipline after bar patron hurt

George Hunter
The Detroit News

Two off-duty Detroit police officers were working an unauthorized security detail at a Corktown bar last week when a Washington Township man was severely injured during a scuffle, Detroit police Chief James Craig said Tuesday.

Former Cmdr. Timothy Leach has been suspended for failing to report he’d used force on a customer inside the Ottava Via tavern on Michigan Avenue during the March 11 St. Patrick’s Day parade, the chief said.

Craig also said Tuesday he demoted Leach to the rank of lieutenant. “As of today, I have de-appointed him,” the chief said.

The customer, 41-year-old Michael Karpovich, remains hospitalized with severe head injuries stemming from the altercation. Family attorney Jennifer Damico of the Mike Morse law firm said he’s suffering from multiple skull fractures.

“The doctors had to remove part of his skull to alleviate the pressure,” Damico told The Detroit News Monday night.

A detective who is under Leach’s command at the 11th Precinct also was working at the Ottava Via when the altercation occurred, Craig said. He said it’s unclear whether the detective witnessed the fight, but that he was in violation of department rules by working in the unauthorized detail.

“It is highly likely that officer will face discipline,” Craig said. “There may be some additional charges if he was aware of the force and failed to disclose it; that would be a problem as well. But I’m not certain he was even there as a witness.”

Craig said there were five or six others — not active duty police officers — working for Leach as bouncers. Leach owns a private security consulting firm, Craig said.

Craig said there are two investigations into the incident: An internal affairs review to look at policy violations; and a criminal investigation by the Homicide Task Force, made up of Detroit police, Michigan State Police and the Drug Enforcement Administration.

The chief said he’s also notified the FBI and Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy. After the criminal investigation is finished, Craig said he’ll turn those results over to Worthy’s office to determine whether charges will be filed against Leach.

Craig said he’s reviewed surveillance video that clearly shows Leach used force on Karpovich. “During this encounter, (Karpovich) was taken to the ground,” Craig said. “...“I’m not saying at this time whether it was excessive force or not, but what’s troubling is, (Leach) didn’t report it as required.

“Whenever a member of this department uses force, whether it’s on duty or off-duty, they shall inform the department,” Craig said. “That did not happen here.”

After Karpovich was injured, someone called 911, and an EMS crew and Detroit Police squad responded. They were told by Ottava Via staff that the injury was the result of a drunken man falling, Craig said.

When Karpovich arrived at the hospital, staff there also were told the injury was sustained in a slip-and-fall accident, Craig said.

“As a matter of routine, we don’t treat those matters as criminal,” Craig said. “At some point, there was an allegation of assault. The 3rd Precinct detectives responded quickly, looked at surveillance video and recognized that the person involved was a member of this department.”

The precinct detectives informed their supervisors and an internal affairs investigation was launched. Leach was suspended Thursday, Craig said. Per the contract with the Command Officers Association union, suspensions are with pay, until Craig asks the Board of Police Commissioners to withhold pay.

Craig said he does not anticipate making that request at Thursday’s board meeting, because the investigations are in their early stages.

The police department has a Secondary Employment program in which officers may moonlight. Any officers working jobs outside that program must get annual approval from the department, the chief said.

Craig added he generally doesn’t like officers to moonlight in bars. “It’s just not a good idea,” he said.

Because Leach is a supervisor, Craig said he takes the allegations against him more seriously than he would if a younger officer had been involved.

“Command officers are held to a higher standard,” he said. “It certainly brought significant discredit to this department.”

Investigators have interviewed 16 witnesses so far, and Craig asked any additional witnesses to call the Homicide Task Force at (313) 596-2260.

(313) 222-2134

Twitter: @GeorgeHunter_DN