Pitts talks in Dude’s fracas

Investigators interview man about fight with off-duty cops

By GINGER GIBSON

The News Journal — Tuesday, November 17, 2009

WILMINGTON — Wilmington police met Monday with one of the men who contends that off-duty officers beat him without provocation at a bar last month.

David Pitts, 21, met with two investigators from the police department — one from the criminal unit and another from the internal investigations unit — at a neutral site Monday afternoon. Pitts, who spent more than an hour and a half with investigators, said he was able to give his full story and identified several men from a photo lineup.

Chief Michael Szczerba and Mayor James Baker on Friday issued a joint statement saying that if Pitts didn’t provide a formal statement to police this week, they would close their investigation.

Pitts has said he had delayed meeting with police because he was afraid they would twist his story.

Baker’s office issued a statement within hours of the meeting acknowledging that Pitts, who remained unnamed in the news release, had met with police. The statement also urged the second civilian involved, Oscar Chapman, 21, to arrange a meeting.

Chapman could not be reached.

The mayor’s office refused to give a timeline for the investigation after Pitts met with police.

Pitts said that at the beginning of the interview, he was read his Miranda rights and waived those rights. He was not charged with any crimes.

Pitts said he requested that Wilmington City Councilman Mike Brown be permitted to sit with him during the interview because he was uncomfortable being interviewed by police without a third party. Brown said he agreed not to speak during the interview and was there only to act as a neutral party for Pitts.

Pitts said he received no indication about what would happen next or whether anyone would be charged.

Police are investigating an early-morning fight on Oct. 24 that began inside Dude’s Sports Bar, owned by Wilmington police Sgt. Mark Christopher, and spilled onto Union Street. The incident allegedly included racial slurs. At one point, a uniformed city officer who was attempting to break up the scuffle Tasered off-duty state trooper Vincent Clemons, who was struggling with another man.