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New Mexico Officer Fired after Off-Duty Fight

Albuquerque Journal via YellowBrix

December 16, 2009

Eugene Rodella has been fired from his job as an Española police officer because of a fight two months ago at a tattoo parlor and hookah bar, according to Española Police Chief Julian Gonzales.

And it remains to be seen whether he can keep his license to be a cop as a law enforcement board mulls punishment for Rodella’s involvement in the Oct. 7 off-duty rumble that sent two people to the hospital.

Gonzales said Rodella’s termination was effective Wednesday of last week and was based on actions that the chief deemed as “firing offenses.”

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" T her e wa s sub s t a n – tial information developed through the internal affairs investigation to show he broke some criminal laws by committing assault and battery on the owner of the tattoo parlor," Gonzales said Friday.

The chief said Rodella – who, according to a State Pol ice repor t, ad m it ted drinking before the ruckus – “brought negative publicity to the city” and did not conduct himself appropriately as an off-duty officer in engaging in the fight.

The incident began when Rodella and younger brother Gabriel Rodella went to the Dragon’s Lair Hookah Lounge and Defiant Artist Tattoo Parlor, where they instigated a fight with someone associated with the shops, according to police documents and 911 recordings.

The Rodella brothers went into the hookah lounge – which adjoins the tattoo shop – and confronted Christopher Whitsell, whom the brothers accused of beating up their nephew, T.J. Rodella, in a fight that took place at the same location the night before.

T.J. Rodella is the son of state Rep. Debbie Rodella, D-Española, and former Rio Arriba County Magistrate Tommy Rodella – the brother of Eugene and Gabriel Rodella. Tommy Rodella is running for Rio Arriba County sheriff.

Gabriel Rodella began punching and choking Whitsell in the parking lot before Whitsell tried to get away by running into the tattoo shop, according to police reports. The Rodellas chased after Whitsell and followed him into a room where Española police Detective Bryan Martinez was getting a tattoo.

The Rodellas pushed their way into the room and began fighting with tattoo shop owner Marlo Gray, who was sent to the hospital following the fight, as was Whitsell.

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