The state Attorney General's Office has taken the reins of the investigation into the alleged Memorial Day weekend assault of two men by off-duty Altoona police officers at Pellegrine's Lounge, several sources close to the matter have indicated.
Citing a longstanding policy of not commenting or confirming any specific investigations, Attorney General's spokesman Nils Frederiksen said only that a referral for an unspecified case had been sent by the Blair County District Attorney's Office and had been accepted.
Another source familiar with the investigation said the case may be headed to a grand jury.
The investigation into the alleged beating of Earl P. Eshelman, 59, of New Enterprise and Herman "Bo" Lardieri, 38, of Altoona began after a 911 call at 1:20 a.m. on May 31, records obtained from the Blair County 911 Center state.
Thirty seconds into the call, the dispatcher wrote on the incident log that "[an] elder male [was] bleeding from head" and he "was jumped."
Authorities have released few details about the investigation since state police first reported the alleged incident through a news release on June 4.
Altoona Police Chief Janice Freehling said Thursday that she had no further comment on either the internal investigation or the state police investigation into allegations that two off-duty officers beat Eshelman unconscious and broke Lardieri's jaw while another off-duty officer held the bathroom door shut.
Altoona police turned the case over to state police and started its own internal investigation when it became apparent to a city detective that it could involve at least two Altoona officers, Freehling told the Mirror on June 4. Freehling also said in early June that two officers had been placed on desk duty, pending the outcome of the investigations.
Freehling did not say when she expects the internal probe to wrap up.
Lardieri's attorney, Mark Zearfaus, questioned why the investigation has dragged on.
"I think it's been incredibly slow," he said, adding that it isn't normal for police to wait so long to make arrests in similar crimes when the suspects are known to investigators, as he said they are in this case.
Zearfaus said Lardieri is "doing good" despite having his jaw broken and Eshelman's attorney, Steve Passarello, said only that his client has ongoing health issues because of the assault.
Three Altoona patrol cars were sent to the bar at 1330 Pleasant Valley Blvd. within a minute of the call, with one car arriving within two minutes and the other two within three minutes, county records reveal. The first officer to arrive remained on the scene for an hour and 14 minutes, while the second officer to show up stayed 21 minutes and the third for four minutes.
An ambulance arrived within four minutes of the 911 call and arrived at the hospital by 1:39 a.m., records indicate.
The caller who reported the assault didn't know where the alleged assailants were at that point, hadn't seen anything firsthand and was only asked to call 911, dispatcher notes state.
Several calls to Blair County District Attorney Richard Consiglio in the last two days were not returned, but Consiglio did say at the start of the state police investigation that he would not comment on any ongoing investigations.