EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

December 15, 2012

Officer injured in early morning brawl

By Mark E. Vogler

---- — METHUEN — An alcohol-fueled disturbance became so rowdy early yesterday that city police needed help from State and Lawrence police to keep an officer from getting seriously injured, according to police Chief Joseph Solomon.

“Officer John Earnshaw could have been killed,” Solomon said in an interview last night, referring to the officer who was beaten and kicked in a violent brawl on Strathmore Road in west Methuen near the Lawrence border.

“I truly believe that if you smash somebody’s head into the pavement, you can actually kill that person,” Solomon said. “We’re all lucky that it didn’t get more out of control. It just goes to show you what alcohol consumption to the excess can do.”

Five people — one of them a resident of the street — were arrested in the disturbance that broke out about 3:15 a.m. That’s when police received several emergency 911 calls for a large group of about 25 people who were yelling and screaming on the street.

Charged were:

Melvin Gomez, 28, 21 Strathmore Road, Methuen, obstructing justice, disturbing the peace, resisting arrest, 2 counts of assault and battery on a police officer and being a disorderly person.

Kimberly Almonte, 24, 237 North Main St., apartment 9, Andover, assault and battery on a police officer, being a disorderly person and resisting arrest.

Stephanie Ortiz, 22, 143 Bennington St., Lawrence, being a disorderly person and obstructing justice.

Joel Ynfante, 31, 21 Wingate St., apartment 309, Haverhill, disturbing the peace, resisting arrest and being a disorderly person.

Joel Sosa, 35, 387 Summer St., first floor, Lynn, disturbing the peace, resisting arrest and being a disorderly person.

Earnshaw, bruised and sore, was treated for injuries at the hospital and was later released.

Chief Solomon wrote an extensive account of the assault on the Methuen Police Department Facebook page yesterday:

“As Officer Earnshaw was handcuffing Ms. Ortiz a male subject (later identified as Mr. Melvin Gomez) came up behind him and grabbed him with both hands putting him in a ‘full nelson type hold.’ He then proceeded to slam Officer Earnshaw head first into the pavement. This caused injury to Officer Earnshaw which later required treatment at the hospital.”

In an interview last night, Solomon said detectives are still investigating the circumstances involved in the brawl and trying to identify a bus that transported those arrested during a “bar crawl.”

“It was one of those party buses and they were allowed to drink on the way home. We’re trying to locate where the bus was from,” the chief said.

The bus driver and company could be held liable for the disturbance which drew the entire midnight shift of the Methuen police to a neighborhood that “is generally quiet,” according to Solomon.

Those who were arrested are due to be arraigned in Lawrence District Court on Tuesday and could face additional charges at that time because of the violent attack on the officer, the chief said.

“We’re working on it right now to upgrade the charges and the detectives are still working on this,” the chief said. “This was an extremely violent altercation. When people get out of control, they get into mob mentality.”

Solomon commended State and Lawrence police for helping to subdue a potentially deadly incident.

“It is one of the most out of control brawls that I have heard of in a long time. There hasn’t been any street fights like this in a while,” he said.

He also credited his own officers for “showing an extreme amount of restraint.”

“I have to credit them for keeping their heads together,” the chief said. He cited the work of rookie officer Kenneth Pilz in particular.

“He just got out of the Police Academy. He gradated a week ago Friday. He performed excellently, particularly under that pressure.

“It was a totally out-of control situation. These are the situations that are hard to train for. Even the females were out of control. One of the residents called about all the noise and people out in the street. Later one of the residents called to let station know that an officer was down,” the chief said.