APD to probe Plummer’s actions

The Altoona Police Department has reassigned officer Matthew Plummer to desk duty, with pay, while the district conducts an internal investigation of a post-concert incident early Sunday in Washington County that led to a charge of aggravated assault.

The city will take “appropriate action” after disposition of the criminal charges, according to a statement read by interim City Manager Omar Strohm after a City Council executive session Tuesday.

Officials didn’t specify what those consequences might be for Plummer.

Plummer, other off-duty police officers and 911 dispatchers were on a bus in the parking lot of the First Niagara Pavilion in Hanover Township when someone threw a bottle against the bus, causing Plummer to look out, according to Hanover Township police.

Seeing a man named Thomas Andrews “mooning” the bus, whose occupants included Plummer’s wife, Plummer went outside, according to reports, including an article in the Observer-Reporter in Washington.

Plummer got out as the bus driver called police, asked Andrews what the problem was, and Andrews, denying he had thrown the bottle, swung at Plummer and missed, according to police.

Plummer punched Andrews, knocking him to the ground and drawing blood, according to police.

There were seven or eight other city officers on the bus, none of whom behaved improperly, according to Altoona Police Chief Janice Freehling.

City Council has refrained from “investigating” the incident because it could taint members’ judgment if Plummer ends up getting fired and exercises his right to appeal to council to reverse that decision, said Councilman Mike Haire.

Council members for a time expected to hold such a hearing in the case of officer Duane Eichenlaub, after he was charged with assaulting two men in a lounge in 2010, after one of them allegedly groped Eichenlaub’s wife.

Eichenlaub is in Blair County Prison, serving

11 1/2-23 months.

In the case of Eichenlaub and other officers involved in that incident, city police deferred to state police to investigate and the Blair County District Attorney’s office deferred to the State Attorney General’s office.

That isn’t necessary in the Plummer case, because it occurred outside local jurisdiction, according to Freehling.