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08-02-2007, 10:24 PM
NO ANSWERS AND NO SATISFACTION :shock:

Man says North Port police were slow to open an investigation
By JOHN DAVIS



john.davis@heraldtribune.com

NORTH PORT -- Mark Ashworth wants to find out who set fire to the camper in his yard and wrote the obscene graffiti on his house.

He suspects it was the same people who roughed him up outside his Bullard Street home on July 9, took his crutches and threatened him with a knife to his throat. But Ashworth, 43, who has severe arthritis and uses crutches to walk, is not sure.

What Ashworth said he is sure about is that it took several calls -- and an e-mail from the office of U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan -- to North Port police before they launched an investigation into his complaint. :shock:

Police officials dismiss the notion that they responded slowly to Ashworth's complaints, saying that he changed the facts several times and that officers could not find anyone lurking near the house. Police also say he was less than cooperative, and at times refused to give a full statement about what happened to him.

"He's one of these challenging cases," said North Port Police Chief Terry Lewis. " ... It would have been very difficult to make an aggravated assault case that night."

The series of events that led to Ashworth's complaints began early in the morning of July 9, a Monday. Police had been by Ashworth's Bullard Street home twice the day before -- once because of a loud argument he was having with his wife and later to question him in response to a call about a suspicious person in the neighborhood.

Ashworth said the stop by police that night as he was walking near his home in one of the city's older neighborhoods is what led to his troubles. The encounter was witnessed by three men and a woman, who later accused Ashworth of being a "narc," or a police informant. They beat and tormented him, Ashworth said, and one man threatened him with a knife. Police are now looking for those people.

Ashworth said the same group sprayed him in the face with a fire extinguisher and choked him with a shirt, dragging him around his yard. They also threatened to kill Ashworth and rape his wife, he said.

Lewis said that when his officers went to Ashworth's home at 1:26 a.m. on July 9, they did not find his story credible.

"The first officer there found him to be confused and disoriented," Lewis said.

Ashworth admits to taking prescription Percocet for his arthritis and drinking three beers that night, but he denies he was too incoherent for authorities to take him seriously.

"When they came to the door, it was like they already made their minds up that they weren't going to do anything," he said.

Ashworth called the police again 12 hours later, during the day shift, to tell police again what happened the night before. He told authorities that he feared a follow-up attack.

That night, the camper in Ashworth's yard caught fire. The fire department ruled it a "suspicious" blaze, and police opened an investigation into the fire.

Police records indicate that, once again, Ashworth complained about the attack, including the knife to his throat. Police still did not open an investigation into the assault.

The next day Buchanan's office passed on to North Port Commissioner Barbara Gross an e-mail from Ashworth's sister, Lynn. Lynn Ashworth rehashed the attack and said that city police were ignoring her brother's complaints.

The e-mail was forwarded to City Manager Steven Crowell, Fire Chief Bill Taaffe and Lewis.

The next day, July 11, police investigators returned to Ashworth's house and took his statement about the attack.

Lewis said the e-mail from Buchanan's office had nothing to do with new case.

"Ironically, at the same time Ms. Ashworth was in Ohio writing Congressman Buchanan, detectives from the NPPD were interviewing her brother and collecting evidence at his home here in North Port," Lewis wrote in a letter to Buchanan's office.

Lewis said the investigation is ongoing and that police may have identified a suspect.

"In hindsight, it's very easy to look at it," Lewis said. "But at 2 o'clock in the morning ... things appear differently."

08-02-2007, 11:08 PM
Lewis is a moron!!! Great job you incompetent idiot! Funny how everything Lewis does or touches turns to $hit!