Old Saybrook officer on paid leave after arrest in connection with Essex bar fight
Old Saybrook — An Old Saybrook police officer has been on paid administrative leave since his arrest on charges related to an alleged family squabble that turned into a bar fight in Essex earlier this month.
Old Saybrook police Chief Michael Spera on Wednesday said Tyler Schulz, 29, will remain on leave pending an internal investigation.
Schulz was charged March 3 by Connecticut State Police with second-degree breach of peace.
An arrest warrant affidavit for the incident, which occurred at Scotch Plains Tavern shortly after midnight on Feb. 27, said the off-duty police officer is accused of shoving one man and choking someone else who was trying to separate them. The man he shoved was identified as the son of his mother's decadeslong boyfriend.
Spera alerted selectmen and Police Commission members to the domestic violence arrest in an email later that day.
"I have met with Mr. Schulz and placed him on Paid Administrative Leave," Spera said. "He was advised that I have directed an Internal Affairs investigation pertaining to this matter and in concert with Department General Orders."
The chief asked officials to refer any requests for comment to him.
The state police investigation leading to the arrest was conducted by Trooper 1st Class Mark Roberts, who oversees the town's small force as part of the Resident State Trooper program. Roberts is also the one who responded to the initial 911 call from the restaurant, where he immediately viewed the bar's surveillance video of the altercation.
Roberts didn't know the case involved a police officer until two days later, according to the affidavit. He received the unsolicited tip via telephone on March 1 from a "currently inactive police officer" not identified in the document.
Spera, asked by The Day when he was informed of the incident involving Schulz and by whom, declined to comment based on the pending internal affairs investigation. He said the information would be available upon completion of the report.
The affidavit said video from the bar showed the fight broke out when Schulz shoved the first man backward onto a shuffleboard table, which then caused many of the 10 people in the room to jump into action.
Witness statements indicate Schulz then wrapped his hands around the neck of a man attempting to intervene. One witness said it took about six people to pull Schulz off him. Photos submitted by the victim revealed "significant red marks and scratches on both sides of his neck," according to the affidavit.
The first victim, who was shoved, told police on March 2 the behavior was unprovoked and the latest in a series of behavioral changes since Schulz's divorce. He said he and Schulz refer to each other as stepbrothers even though their parents are not married and that the boys lived together in the same household for approximately 13 years before going to college.
Schulz on March 2 told Roberts the group at the tavern had been picking fights with him all night and that "nice guys finish last," according to the affidavit.
Expressing concern about whether the case was being investigated as a domestic violence incident, Schulz said he and the victim were not technically stepbrothers and only lived in the same house for a couple years before he moved out. He declined to answer more questions pending consultation with his union representative and then a lawyer, the affidavit said.
State statute defines domestic violence as an incident between family or household members that causes harm or the fear of harm. It requires police to make an arrest if they find that probable cause exists that a domestic violence crime took place.
None of the alleged victims pressed charges, according to the affidavit. Roberts said they were concerned about the potential for retaliation.
Schulz appeared in Middletown Superior Court on Mar. 3. He has not yet made a plea, according to the criminal clerk's office. His next court date is April 22.
Schulz is not the only area police officer to be arrested recently on a second-degree breach of peace charge. Old Lyme Officer Jay Rankin, who served as a volunteer firefighter in Old Saybrook, turned himself in on March 14 following a lengthy investigation by Old Saybrook police into allegations that he used the n-word in an argument with a man pushing a shopping cart in front of the Old Saybrook Fire Department. Rankin denied using the slur to police and pleaded not guilty in court.
Rankin has been on paid leave from the Old Lyme department for six months.
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