County cop cleared of charges in Hammond bar fight

2013-02-20T20:00:00Z 2013-02-20T21:49:08Z County cop cleared of charges in Hammond bar fightSusan Brown susan.brown@nwi.com, (219) 662-5325 nwitimes.com
February 20, 2013 8:00 pm  • 

CROWN POINT | Hammond City Court Judge Jeffrey Harkin last week found an officer with the Lake County Sheriff's Department not guilty of misdemeanor battery and disorderly conduct charges stemming from a bar fight in September.

"I'm glad I went to court," said Officer Louis Vasquez, of East Chicago.

The charges resulted in a 15-day suspension without pay, loss of his take-home car, weapon, badge, part-time job and volunteer coaching activities, he said Thursday.

In addition, when he returned to work following the suspension, Vasquez said he was reassigned to the jail. He since has been returned to patrol duty and now will be seeking to recoup his lost pay, he said.

Vasquez and his attorney, John Cantrell, of Hammond, insisted from the start that Vasquez was taken for an off-duty Chicago police officer when a fight broke out in the early morning hours of Sept. 15 at Flick's Tavern in Hammond.

Both men were wearing a red shirt at the time of the brawl, which involved as many as 20 people, Vasquez said.

Based on all the evidence presented last week, it was clear police arrested the wrong person, Cantrell said.

"We were very pleased that the judge agreed," he said.

But Vasquez doesn't believe it was an honest mistake.

"There never should have been a mix-up," he said, contending responding police were familiar with the other officer involved.

Vasquez, who was off-duty at the time, said the officers also mistook him for a gang member.

"They asked what gang I was in even after I showed them my badge and weapon," he said.

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