EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

December 19, 2012

Booze bus brawler charged with trying to murder cop

By Jill Harmacinski

---- — LAWRENCE — An attempted murder charge was filed against a Methuen man accused of jumping on a city police officer’s back and then slamming him headfirst into the pavement as the cop tried to break up an alcohol-fueled street brawl early Saturday morning.

Officer John Earnshaw was left with a large abrasion on the top of his head, his hair ripped out, along with abrasions to his left hand and both knees.

Melvin Gomez, 28, of 21 Strathmore Road, was held on $7,500 cash bail after his arraignment on assault with intent to murder, assault and battery on a police officer, obstruction of justice, disturbing the peace, disorderly conduct, and inciting a riot charges in Lawrence District Court yesterday.

Four others were also arraigned in connection with the booze brawl police encountered after responding to the area of 14 Strathmore Road at 3:15 Saturday morning.

Gomez, at the request of prosecutor Kate Sarmini, was also court-ordered to remain alcohol-free while the case is pending.

Defense lawyer Stephen Wright said Gomez, a union carpenter with a 9-year-old son, knows his actions Saturday morning were not right.

“My client knows his behavior was not correct,” said Wright, explaining Gomez had been on a party bus tour that stopped at various bars in Boston that night. “There is no justification for getting involved with police when they are in the middle of their job,” Wright continued.

Judge Mark Sullivan, however, rebuffed Wright’s request to set bail at $2,500.

Police received six 911 emergency calls about the Strathmore Road disturbance which involved as many as 40 people. Every Methuen police officer on duty responded along with emergency back up from Lawrence and state police after Earnshaw was assaulted.

As police tried to subdue the situation, the crowd “became extremely upset and began yelling at and circling,” pushing and shoving the officers, according to a report.

Two women, Kimberly Almonte, 24, and Stephanie Ortiz, 22, first assaulted Earnshaw, hitting him in the chest and trying to grab his microphone for his radio, according to court records.

As another officer was handcuffing Ortiz, Gomez went up behind Earnshaw, grabbed the police officer and put him “in a full nelson type hold,” according to court papers. Reaching under the officer’s arms and disabling him, Gomez then slammed Earnshaw into the ground headfirst into the pavement. Earnshaw was treated and released at Holy Family Hospital for the abrasions to his head, hand and knees.

Two other officers used knee and palm-heel strikes to loosen Gomez’s harmful grip on Earnshaw and arrest him, according to court records.

“The defendant did engage in extremely disorderly, turbulent conduct,” said Sarmini, asking Sullivan to set bail at $10,000.

In court yesterday, Earnshaw sat with his father-in-law, Larry Giordano, a former city councilor and state commissioner of public safety. Police Chief Joseph Solomon and other department top brass lined the front row of the courtroom gallery.

These four people were arraigned on the following brawl-related charges, released on personal recognizance and told to return to court with Gomez on Jan. 18:

Kimberly Almonte, of 237 North Main St., apt. 9, Andover, assault and battery on a police officer, disorderly conduct, resisting arrest and inciting a riot.

Stephanie Ortiz, of 143 Bennington St., Lawrence, disorderly conduct, obstructing justice and inciting a riot.

Joel Ynfante, 31, of 21 Wingate St., apt. 309, Haverhill, disturbing the peace, resisting arrest, disorderly conduct and inciting a riot.

Joel Sosa, 35, of 387 Summer St., first floor, Lynn, disturbing peace, resisting arrest, disorderly conduct and inciting a riot.

Follow staff reporter Jill Harmacinski on Twitter under the screenname EagleTribJill.