Attorney Bobby Aniekwu, left, talks to reporters as his clients Roberta Caban, center, and Cynthia Freeman listen at Aniekwu's office Wednesday afternoon in Atlanta on April 27, 2011. Freeman and Caban were two of four women that got into a scuffle with an off-duty APD officer at an IHOP early Saturday.
An internal review has determined that an off-duty Atlanta police officer followed departmental rules in a scuffle with several women at a Buckhead IHOP, all of it captured on video by customers in the restaurant early on April 23.
The APD police academy reviewed the videos posted on the Internet site YouTube as well as witness statements and the reports by the officers on the scene, Channel 2 Action News reported. The 10-day review was for the purpose of determining if any changes need to be made in Atlanta's police training program.
It is separate from an ongoing investigation by the Office of Professional Standards, also known as internal affairs, APD spokesman Sgt. Curtis Davenport said Tuesday.
Davenport said no report had been released but one is expected. He did not know the timing of its release, however.
In the meantime, Ashley Leavell is charged with felony obstruction for allegedly punching the off-duty police officer who was trying to force another woman out of her booth and out of the restaurant. She also is charged with misdemeanors, public drunkenness and simple battery. The felony count could mean at least a year in prison if she is convicted while the maximum punishment for a misdemeanor is 12 months in jail.
Three other women were arrested and charged with misdemeanors.
The accounts offered by the women involved differ from reports by police officers.
Off-duty Atlanta Police Officer Jose Vidal, hired by IHOP to provide security, wrote in a report he confronted Cynthia Freeman because she was loud and shouting to people in another booth. He reportedly told her to be quiet or leave.
Another woman, Roberta Caban, told the officer "they weren't doing anything."
Then the situation escalated.
Leavell came over to the booth and told Vidal to leave Freeman alone and she "started throwing punches at my body to stop me from arresting her," Vidal wrote in his report.
"Ms. Leavell punched me in the left side of my face, I returned the punch and struck her in her face," the report said. Vidal also wrote in the report that Leavell used vulgar language and had a strong odor of alcohol on her breath.
According to the videos customers recorded and later posted on the Inernet, Leavell touched Vidal, Vidal slapped her and Leavell hit back. Vidal answered with a closed-fist punch to Leavell's face.
Other officers called to back up Vidal had arrived by the time Vidal and Leavell exchanged blows.
Freeman told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution last month that she didn’t notice the police officer when they walked into the IHOP at 4 a.m. but instead was focused on two men dressed as characters from the Star Wars trilogy. That’s when a man in a blue shirt came over to their table and told her to shut up, she said.
Freeman -- now charged with misdemeanor criminal trespass, obstruction and simple battery -- said she didn’t notice the off-duty officer when she arrived at the IHOP and still didn’t know that he was a police officer when he came over to their table and told them to shut up.
Freeman said the officer pulled out some of her hair.
Caban was interviewed by APD’s Office of Professional Standards as part of their investigation.
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