By The Raleigh Telegram
DURHAM – Three police officers were arrested in Durham after a bizarre incident that city officials say involved a nightclub, a stolen police badge, and people chasing a man down the street.
Overall, six people were arrested including the three police officers, said Durham Police Department spokesperson Kammie Michaels on Friday.
The police officers arrested were Lieutenant Ryan A. Freeman, patrol officer Stacy L. Armstrong and patrol officer Erin V. Espinola.
The department said that Freeman works as a watch commander assigned to the patrol bureau and has been with the department almost 20 years. Espinola joined the Police Department in August 2005 and Armstrong was hired in January 2011, say police.
All three were charged with one count of false imprisonment, one count of assault and one count of misdemeanor breaking and entering. Armstrong was also charged with an additional count of breaking and entering.
Police officers also charged Jessica Lobaugh, age 30, of Timberlake, North Carolina, Benjamin Brackett, age 32, of Timberlake and Jennifer Norton, age 30, of Rougemont, North Carolina. They were each arrested on one count of assault and one count of misdemeanor breaking and entering.
Details are sketchy as to exactly what happened and what led up to the charges, but the Durham Police Department said that all three officers were off duty when the incidents took place.
“No further details about the incident are being released at this time due to the ongoing investigations,” said the Durham Police.
The department mention a brief narrative of what happened that evening.
The series of incidents evidently started on Ninth Street in Durham at a nightclub, where one of the police officers allegedly was the victim of a larceny where their coat was stolen late Thursday night.
The coat contained an iPhone, a wallet containing police identification and other items, said police.
In statements made by the police department, the three off duty police officers then went to someone’s home later that night to get the items back that were taken from the coat.
“According to investigators, several people allegedly pushed their way into a residence in an attempt to retrieve the property,” said Kammie Michaels of the Durham Police Department. ”During the disturbance a male was subsequently chased to another location, where he was allegedly assaulted.”
According to the police reports and eyewitness accounts of people in the neighborhood on local television, after his house was broken into, the man ran down the street.
A neighbor told WRAL said that the man from his house on Trevor Circle and then banged on the door of his house in Landis Drive.
The eyewitness said that the man was yelling that people were after him and then shortly afterwards, a woman entered his home chasing after him. The woman may have been police officer Stacy Armstrong, since she was charged with an additional count of breaking and entering, but that has not been confirmed.
Durham Police say that after someone called 911, on-duty police officers showed up at around 1:00am at Trevor Circle and then a few minutes later arrived at Landis Drive where everyone was taken into custody.
It is unclear at this time who exactly was chasing who or who the three additional people were that were charged and their involvement in the incidents that night.
The charges were filed Friday afternoon after an investigation by the Durham Police Department’s Criminal Investigations Division.
“The Police Department’s Professional Standards Division is also conducting an internal investigation of the officers, which is standard procedure,” said the Durham Police Department. ”Additional charges may be filed.”
All three officers are currently on administrative leave, said police.
The Durham Police Department leadership said they are addressing the matter immediately.
“We take all matters involving alleged officer misconduct very seriously. These allegations are being thoroughly investigated,” said Durham Police Chief Jose L. Lopez Sr.
“Although these three officers have been charged, I want to stress to the community that these actions are not indicative of our organization. Although all parties were acquaintances, we believe this was an isolated incident,” the chief added. ::
Article Posted: Monday, January 21st, 2013.