Lawyer: Officer defended himself

Local defense attorney Steven P. Passarello said an Altoona police officer facing aggravated assault charges did nothing other than defend himself when confronted by a large man who took a swing at him following a concert in Washington County Saturday night.

“This is a classic case of self-defense,” Passarello said as he explained Officer Matthew J. Plummer’s side of the story Wednesday.

Plummer, 27, an Altoona patrol officer, is on desk duty pending the outcome of criminal charges brought by Hanover Township, Washington County, police officer Douglas Chimile, who provides security during concerts at the First Niagara Pavilion in Burgettstown.

Plummer was among a busload of police personnel and family members attending the concert.

Passarello is representing Plummer, who will have a preliminary hearing before Magisterial District Judge Gary H. Havelka of Washington County at 1:30 p.m. Sept. 26.

Although Passarello has not completed his investigation, he emphasized Wednesday that Plummer will not waive the aggravated assault charge to court. He will instead have a hearing.

A police affidavit of probable cause stated that as the bus was leaving at 11:46 p.m. Saturday, Plummer heard a “loud noise” of something hitting a side window of the bus.

Plummer exited the bus after he observed a man, identified as Thomas Andrews, moon the bus, according to a criminal complaint.

Police said Plummer was confronted by Andrews outside the bus, and after Plummer asked Andrews “what his problem was,” the man attempted to strike Plummer, who then hit him once, causing Andrews to fall to the ground.

The police affidavit stated that Blair County Deputy Sheriff James Brantner also stepped off the bus and saw Plummer “over top of the male after the altercation transpired.” Brantner pulled Plummer from the area.

Passarello provided more details on Plummer’s behalf.

He said that that as the bus was leaving, two men with a truck were tailgating.

A beer bottle struck and “spidered” a window of the bus, Passarello said.

Fullington Bus Co. driver Clarence Forey Jr., following company policy, stopped the bus and got out to obtain information because of damage.

Forey, 51, approached “two large individuals.” Passarello added, “very large.” They were uncooperative with the driver, and that’s when Plummer made an appearance. He wanted to see if the driver was OK, Passarello said.

Plummer was urging the individuals to cooperate with the bus driver so the vehicle could return to Altoona.

One of the men “takes a swing at my client,” Passarello said, adding Plummer hit him once, and “the guy was down and out.”

He said in the process Plummer fell down and was “helped up” by Brantner.

“He [Andrews] took a swing at my guy. He [Plummer] defended himself with one punch,” Passarello said.

Asked if Plummer identified himself as a police officer, Passarello said he did not. Plummer gave a statement to the investigating officer.

Passarello said all that Plummer wanted was for Andrews to give the bus driver the information he was asking for.

Blair County Sheriff Mitchell Cooper said this week that Brantner didn’t want to give a statement to the news media, noting he would be appearing at the preliminary hearing.

Washington County District Attorney Eugene A. Vittone II said the only thing he knew about the case was what he read in the local newspaper. There will be a representative of the DA’s office at the upcoming preliminary hearing, he said.

Chief Stan Henry of the Hanover Township Police Department said the investigation is ongoing.

But, he said, charges have not yet been brought against Andrews, who remains in a hospital.

Henry said the fact that Plummer is a police officer does not mean he would be treated differently than any other person in a similar situation.

“We had to do what we had to do,” he said.