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Former Bay City police officers including Tuscola County man face charges

Bay City Police Officer Brian Ritchey, left, was awarded two citations at the Bay City Police Department Annual Citation Ceremony in 2012. He and two other officers resigned from the department during an investigation into their actions during an incident at a Bay City bar in May 2013.

By Mary Drier
Staff Writer

AKRON/BAY COUNTY — Midland County Prosecutor Michael Carpenter is reviewing reports on former Bay City Police officers  Brian Ritchey of Akron, Don Aldrich, and Keath Bartynski for possible criminal charges regarding their actions during an incident in May.

“I just got the reports and the DVDs this week,” said Carpenter. “There is a lot of material and photos to go through. It will take awhile.”

The Bay County Prosecutor’s office sent the report to the Michigan Attorney General’s office to avoid conflict of interest. From there the case went to the Michigan Prosecuting Attorney’s Coordinating Council where it was assigned to Carpenter.

“What they (allegedly) did may not be ethical, morale, or nice; it will be reviewed whether their actions were criminal or culpable …” said Carpenter.

Besides reviewing the report, Carpenter will also view video from others who used their cell phones to video record the incidents.

A Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request by the Tuscola County Advertiser obtained a copy of the report which supports Joshua Elzinga’s claims he was improperly detained, accosted, and his cell phone stolen by Ritchey, Aldrich, and Bartynski during an incident May 1 and 2 at Steamer’s Pub 108 N. Linn St., Bay City.

The three were placed on paid administrative leave during the investigation, and they each resigned June 17.

The 148-page internal investigation report confirms the 13 allegations of “misconduct” by the former officers. (See related article).

The brouhaha began when Joshua Elzinga posted a photo of a police vehicle that stated “Bay City’s finest illegally parked so he can flirt with a Bay City bartender, keep it up Brian Ritchey … you’re doing our city proud,” on Facebook.

Ritchey returned to Linn Street when he learned of the Facebook post when it was forwarded to him by Carrie Aldrich, wife of officer Don Aldrich. Don was off duty and at the bar with his wife celebrating his birthday.

When Ritchey entered Steamers he asked who Joshua Elzinga was. He told Elzinga he didn’t appreciate what he had done and said the post was “unprofessional.” After the two talked briefly, Ritchey left.

After that, Ritchey contacted Bartynski to meet at a parking lot “to vent” about the Facebook post.

INVESTIGATION REPORT

The following are some excerpts of interviews that conducted in the investigation.

Ritchey was asked why he went to Steamers after the Facebook posting:

“Because I didn’t know who the guy was and I wanted to know how he knew my name,” said Ritchey.

“I was going to ask Don and Carrie. Like I said, I didn’t know who this guy is. I didn’t know he’d be there. I wasn’t going to confront the guy.”

However, later in the transcript, witnesses said Ritchey came into the bar and asked for Elzinga, and talked to the Aldriches.

Ritchey was asked why he met Bartynski after confronting Elzinga about the posting and telling the posting was “unprofessional.”

“So I could vent. Every once in a while when you get kind of worked up, it’s nice to have somebody to blow some steam of to,” said Ritchey.

“About some guy that I don’t even know posting things that I thought were inappropriate about me,” said Ritchey.

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While Ritchey and Bartynski were talking about the posting, Carrie Aldrich text Ritchey that Don Aldrich was getting ready to fight Elzinga.

However, there wasn’t a physical altercation – exchanged words.

===

It is the police department’s policy that officers notify they are responding to a fight, but Ritchey and Bartynski reported they were responding to a “COPS stop” which is a designation for a police officer meeting face-to-face with a member of the public.

“Neither officer called out with a fight in any way. Officer Bartynski did not call out at all while officer Ritchey improperly called out their activity as a COPS stop. Both officers acknowledged this to be true,” the  investigative report stated.

===

Bartynski arrived on the scene before Ritchey, and Aldrich pointed Elzinga out to him.

“Officer Bartynski did not speak to anyone in the bar at that time and made no attempt to find out what the circumstances of were,” noted the report.

The report further states: “Bartynski escorted Elzinga by the arm causing bruising to Elzinga’s right bicep…” that Bartynski patted Elzinga down, and when “Officer Bartynski stated that he noticed Elzinga had a phone in his hand and he removed it from him forcefully.”

Elzinga was handcuffed, searched and placed in the officer’s car.

“Officer Bartynski stated that he did not interview a single witness in order to determine what happened. He failed to even get a statement form Elzinga who he had just taken into custody,” said the report.

BREATHALYZER

Elzinga said Ritchey and Bartynski tried to get him to take a breathalyzer test.

“They told me that I needed to take a breathalyzer. I said that I hadn’t done anything wrong,” said Elzinga in the report and noted he told them he wasn’t going to be driving. “I was sitting in an establishment. I wasn’t on the street when all this occurred.”

No one else in the bar was asked to take a breathalyzer test.

Elzinga was released from the vehicle and the handcuffs removed a short time later after he refused to submit to the test.

“There was clearly no justification for officer Bartynski to forcefully detain, handcuff or search Elzinga. He conducted absolutely no investigation before or after taking Elzinga into custody,” according to information in the report.

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According to witnesses before Ritchey and Bartynski arrived, Aldrich insisted that Elzinga shouldn’t be served.

“He (Aldrich) was clearly the more intoxicated of the two,” said one witness who is an experienced bartender. “In my opinion, Josh was fine to be sitting there and he hadn’t been a problem,” the report noted.

The report states that at the time of the incident Aldrich had been in the bar approximately seven hours, but contents “he was not overly intoxicated at the time of the incident,” but Aldrich did state “he was too intoxicated to drive.”

MISSING PHONE

When Bartynski took the cell phone away from Elzinga, it was “tossed on the ground,” and hasn’t been found since then.

The transcript notes there is a picture of Don Aldrich holding something in his hand, and Carrie Aldrich talking about “smashing it.”

In Ritchey’s May 2 memo, he indicated the cell phone as on the ground near Don and Carrie Aldrich, “but when interviewed May 3, he stated ‘Carrie picked it up.’”

“Officer Ritchey also indicated that he saw Carrie holding the phone. He indicated that he told Carrie Aldrich to give him the phone but she didn’t, and then he inexplicable became distracted..” said the report. “Officer Ritchey explained that he did not believe officer Aldrich and his wife would steal the phone.”

Also, “There is no one else that could have taken the phone other than officer Aldrich without being noticed,” a statement in the report contends.

According to Elzinga, “he recorded his interactions with all three officers” and those “recording may have provided a motive for all three officers to dispose of the phone.”

==

“For some people it’s just a phone, but for me, I have four years of memories in that phone. That’s why I’m mad,” said Elzinga during the interview. “The fact that I got handcuffed, drug out of a bar and put into a cop car over taking a phone and posting it on Facebook is wrong, and has got to be in some sense illegal.”

Elzinga said he filed the complaint because he wanted his cell phone… or to be compensated for the phone they stole.

“If I took somebody’s phone with a gun on my hip, wouldn’t that be armed robbery? How is that different?” he quested during the interview.

===

Because the three men resigned from the Bay City Police Department, that office considers the case closed. However, the matter is being reviewed for possible criminal charges.

Mary Drier is a staff writer for the Tuscola County Advertiser. She can be reached at drier@tcadvertiser.com.

Allegations against officers detailed 

By Mary Drier
Staff Writer

BAY COUNTY — The Tuscola County Advertiser is following the case of former Bay City Police officers Brian Ritchey, Don Aldrich, and Keath Bartynski.

Although it is a Bay County issue, Tuscola County’s connection is that Ritchey lives here, is the treasurer for Akron Township and married to Amanda Roggenbuck, who is a former Tuscola County Probate Judge and former commissioner.

Ritchey, who was with the Bay City Police Department for 12 years before resigning during the investigation, received two awards from that department last fall for exceptional conduct in the line of duty.

The actions of the three officers were called into question for accosting Joshua Elzinga because he took and posted a photo of a police vehicle parked on the wrong side of the street, along with a disparaging remark about Ritchey. The officers are accused of abusing their authority when they acted on that May 2 incident at Steamer’s Bar in Bay City and in the process lost Elzinga’s cell phone.

Elzinga reported the incident to the Bay County Sheriff’s Office. His allegations were forwarded to the Michigan Sheriff’s Association Mission Team for an impartial review.

An internal investigation found all 13 of the following allegations sustainable (verifiable) as the events of that evening:

Allegation 1: On May 2 at approximately 12:45 a.m., Officer Brian Ritchey approached Joshua Elzinga in Steamer’s Pub regarding a picture and comment posted on Facebook by Elzinga. Officer Ritchey used profane language and was unprofessional when he approached Elzinga.

Allegation 2: Officer Aldrich was off duty at Steamer’s Pub when he confronted Elzinga. Aldrich was intoxicated, yelling and using profanity, challenging Elzinga to fight.

Aldrich was identified by the patrons as an off-duty officer, and he brought discredit to the Bay City Public Safety Department by his inappropriate actions.

Allegation 3: Officer Ritchey and Officer Bartynski responded to a fight involving Officer Aldrich (who was off duty). Both officers failed to notify a supervisor in a timely fashion that they were responding to a call involving an off-duty officer.

Allegation 4: Officer Bartynski and Officer Ritchey failed to properly call out with a fight and instead Ritchey called it out as a COPS stop. (A COPS stop designation is for when a police meets face-to-face with a member of the public.)

Allegation 5: Officer Bartynski arrived at Steamer’s Pub: Bartynski forcefully removed, handcuffed and searched Elzinga without cause and failed to properly investigate the incident.

Allegation 6: Officer Bartynski seized Elzinga’s phone from him. Neither Bartynski nor Ritchey took any steps to make sure the phone was properly secured. The phone was not returned to Elzinga because it could not be located after he was released.

Allegation 7: Officer Aldrich stole a cell phone belonging to  Elzinga in order to destroy evidence of his misconduct.

Allegation 8: Officer Ritchey and Officer Bartynski allowed Elzinga’s phone to be stolen and they did nothing to stop it.

Allegation 9: Officer Ritchey was not truthful at times during the course of this investigation.

Allegation 10: Officer Bartynski was not truthful at times during the course of this investigation.

Allegation 11: Officer Aldrich was not truthful at times during the course of this investigation.

Allegation 12: Officer Ritchey and Officer Bartynski communicated with each other about this investigation and their interviews, which was in violation of a direct order that they were both given on May 3 and again on May 9.

Allegation 13: Officer Aldrich spoke with a neighbor about this investigation, which was in violation of a direct order he was given on May 3 and again on May 9.

To avoid any “conflict of interest” the Bay County Prosecutor’s Office turned the matter over to the Michigan Attorney General’s office, which in turned gave it to the Midland County Prosecutor’s office to review for possible criminal charges.

Mary Drier is a staff writer for the Tuscola County Advertiser. She can be reached at drier@tcadvertiser.com.

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2 Responses to "Former Bay City police officers including Tuscola County man face charges"

  1. Tom Thumb says:

    Hopefulley they will run this guy out of Akron!!

    Report this comment

  2. william10 says:

    Akron people never has liked cops. Wonder why?????

    Report this comment

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