Janesville25.3°

Evansville officer no longer employed by department

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GINA R. HEINE
December 18, 2007
— An Evansville officer cited for disorderly conduct after a Milton bar fight is no longer employed by the police department, Police Chief Scott McElroy said.

Jason Grooms is the second Evansville police officer this year to leave the department under a cloud.


McElroy declined further comment on the Monday departure of Grooms.


Grooms started as a part-time officer in Evansville in February 2006 and switched to full time in March 2007, McElroy said.


“He was a good officer,” he said.


McElroy will work with city administration and the police commission to appoint a new full-time officer, he said.


Former Evansville police Sgt. William Fitters resigned before he was charged March 8 with two counts of liquor sales without a license. He pleaded no contest and agreed to never again work in law enforcement in Rock County. A judge ordered him to pay $728 in fines and court costs.


State agents caught Fitters selling nine bottles of “Apple Pie Everclear” to a local bar Feb. 14. Fitters admitted to police he was making the alcoholic beverage at home and selling it for $10 a bottle to two Evansville bars.


Fitters also served a 60-day suspension in 2006 for unbecoming conduct after an Evansville woman accused him of misconduct, including pressuring her to have sex.


Fitters and McElroy settled the complaint against Fitters in January 2006, before the police commission heard evidence. As part of the settlement, Fitters agreed to the suspension without pay for “conduct unbecoming” of an officer.


Grooms, 30, of 522 Lombard Drive, Milton, is one of four people cited or arrested at 12:15 a.m. Dec. 10, after a fight at Klub Bub Bar, 46 Merchant Row, Milton.


According to a Milton police report:


Grooms and his wife, Courtney L. Grooms, 25, arrived at Klub Bub Bar on the night of Dec. 9, and were told the bar was closed for a private Christmas party.


According to Grooms’ statement to Milton police, the bartender, Alan Oleston, told the couple they could stay for one drink. Oleston denied offering a drink to the couple and said he told them they had to leave immediately.


The report then describes a fight breaking out between Jason Grooms, Courtney Grooms and at least two patrons in the bar:


-- Shawn F. Lewis, 33, of 343 College St., Milton.


-- Steven H. White, 38, of 1132 Brown Drive, Milton.


Witnesses disagreed about who started the fight. Some blamed the Groomses, and some blamed Lewis and White. In his report, Milton police officer Brad Smith said he believed the Groomses’ refusal to leave provoked the disturbance.


Jason Grooms called police after Lewis and White hit him several times, giving him a bloody nose, according to his statement to police. Lewis and White were arrested on charges of misdemeanor battery.


All the participants had been drinking, and most were highly intoxicated, according to Smith’s report.


One witness, Thomas Garvin, said Jason Grooms told people in the bar “that he was a cop and that he could do what he wanted,” according to the police report.


Smith wrote that Grooms was “difficult to deal with” during the initial investigation:


“He initially refused to provide a written statement; I eventually convinced him to cooperate,” Smith wrote. “He was told that regardless of his position with Evansville that this agency would investigate the incident to its satisfaction. At one point Jason was reprimanded by a sheriff’s deputy for his continual intrusions during the investigation.”



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