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Conover: No charges for off-duty TPD officer over Nov. tussle in restaurant parking lot

Conover: No charges for off-duty TPD officer over Nov. tussle in restaurant parking lot

  • Paul Ingram/

A Tucson police officer who pinned two women to the ground during a confrontation outside of a Midtown restaurant last November will not face criminal charges, the Pima County Attorney's Office announced Wednesday. Prosecutors said they would likely be unable to convince a jury to convict the officer, who was not on duty at the time of the incident.

Video captured during the incident in November 2021 showed Robert Szelewski, an off-duty Tucson Police Department officer, braced on top of two women in the parking lot of Culinary Dropout, 2543 E. Grant Rd.

The women accused Szelewski of "coming really fast" at them in his car, while Szelewski said that one woman "assaulted" him. 

PCAO officials said they completed their investigation this week after reviewing surveillance video, body-worn camera video, interviews, a written statement from one of the women involved, and photos of the incident.

The investigation concluded that one woman "approached Szelewski in an 'aggressive manner' leading to his actions to restrain that woman and another who tried to intervene."

“Based on discrepancies between what witnesses observed, as well as video evidence, there is not sufficient evidence to issue charges against Robert Szelewski,” Dan South, the chief criminal deputy to Pima County Attorney Laura Conover, wrote in a letter to Tucson Police Chief Chad Kasmar, according to PCAO. Prosecutors publicly announced the decision Wednesday evening, but did not provide a complete copy of that letter.

The incident began on Sunday, Nov. 14, when Michelle Aloisi, 62, and her daughters Brittany Aloisi-Wiles, 39, and Nicole Whitted, 40, left Culinary Dropout. Video surveillance showed the three woman walked across the parking lot toward Szelewski. who was standing between two parked cars.

In cellphone video recorded by Whitted, Szelewski — wearing shorts and a green button-up shirt — was on top of both Aloisi and Aloisi-Wiles, restraining them on the asphalt with his elbow and torso. Whitted attempted to record the incident and place a 911 call, telling the operator: "This man is on top of my mother and sister, screaming at them to get their hands on their backs — he attacked them!"

"He screamed that he was a cop and threw my sister on the ground," Whitted sobbed in the video

As Szelewski had the two women restrained, a bystander attemptd to intervene. He asked the police officer for identification, and then he repeatedly askedd Szelewski to let the women up. Szelewski refused, telling him, "No. They assaulted me, so I'm not getting up until other units get here," he said.

Whitted later said that Szelewski nearly ran the women over as they crossed the parking lot while walking to their cars, coming toward them "at a high rate of speed."

In the video, after the bystander began to help, Szelewski shifted his position, putting his knee against Aloisi-Wiles' neck. As he does this, Whitted screamed, "What are you doing?" and berated the officer repeatedly.

"I'm not assaulting you, I'm just calling you what you are," she yelled. "You're a horrible fucking person," she said.

The bystander leaned in, and asked Szelewski to let the women up. "If you let her off the ground, I'll make sure she stays with you." Finally, Szelewski relented, and let the women off the ground.

PCAO officials said they interviewed the three women who were involved in the incident, Szelewski and his family, as well as several witnesses.

"The confrontation escalated from a verbal confrontation to a physical one that led to Szelewski physically restraining two of the women, while the third used a camera phone to videotape the incident," officials said.

“The facts do not support a substantial likelihood of conviction at trial,” South wrote. “A jury could easily find that (the woman who first approached the off-duty officer) used a threat of force first by rushing towards Szelewski to start the fight.”

Even after Szelewski let the women up, the off-duty officer manageed to start a new argument with the women, accusing them of drinking. "At what point do you charge in a bump somebody?" Szelewski asks.

"You pushed her," Whitted said. "You're lying!"

The 911 operator told them to stop arguing because the police were on their way.

Review of November shooting death still undisclosed

As Culinary Dropout case winds to a close, PCAO has more prominent and violent case to consider.

In December, Pima County Attorney Laura Conover said her office would review the fatal shooting of Richard Lee Richards, a 61-year-old man who was shot in his wheelchair as he attempted to roll into a Lowe's home improvement store.

TPD Officer Ryan Remington shot and killed Richards on Nov. 29, 2021, while working on a "special duty assignment" as security guard when he responded to a report from Walmart employees that Richards had shoplifted a toolbox, and threatened an employee with a knife.

Former TPD Chief Chris Magnus said he was "deeply disturbed and troubled" by Remington's actions when he fired his weapon multiple times, hitting Richards in the back and killing him.

In a statement, Mayor Regina Romero called Remington's actions "unconscionable and indefensible."

Remington was fired by the department. PCAO has yet to publicly release any information about that investigation, including whether Remington will face any criminal charges.

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