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Update: Officers plead not guilty in beating of Mid-City man after bar dispute

Gomez said he is a U.S. native who was raised in Honduras before returning to live in New Orleans

NEW ORLEANS – The victim of a beating at the hands of two rookie NOPD officers told The New Orleans Advocate that the off-duty cops started the fracas in a Mid-City bar by questioning whether or not he was an American.

Officers Spencer Sutton and John Galman were arrested hours after the alleged incident that left George Gomez hospitalized Tuesday morning with bruises to his face and cuts that required stitches. The fight also resulted in the NOPD firing Sutton and Galman.

The two officers pleaded not guilty in court Wednesday. Bond was set for both men at $1,500.

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Sutton and Galman are both rookies who graduated in December from the police training academy. They were officially terminated on Wednesday.

“This investigation is ongoing and the Greater New Orleans Civil Rights Task Force (GNOCRTF) which consists of members of NOPD’s Public Integrity Bureau (PIB) and FBI are actively looking into whether this case meets the elements of a potential civil rights violation," a statement from NOPD said.

Gomez told WWL-TV the officers, who are both white, took exception to his military camouflage-style outfit and began to harass him.

Gomez later told The Advocate one of the officers “asked me if I was American. I told him yes, and he got mad because he said I was fake." Gomez described himself as a U.S. native who was raised in Honduras before returning to live in New Orleans.

Credit: Melancon, Stephen
Spencer Sutton and John Galman

During an interview with WWL-TV, Gomez said that he had “served” the country.

The NOPD’s investigation quickly resulted in the arrests of Galman and Spencer on one count each of simple battery, but a statement by the NOPD added that additional charges could come as the investigation continues.

“Members of our department are expected to comply with the law and adhere to the highest standards of professional conduct, whether on- or off-duty,” Police Superintendent Michael Harrison said in a statement.

“The swift pace at which the Public Integrity Bureau investigated this incident and the decisive actions taken by the NOPD ... by arresting the officers and starting the termination process clearly demonstrate how seriously our department views their actions.”

Gomez said he left the Mid-City Yacht Club, a neighborhood bar, after the argument with Galman and Sutton but that the confrontation continued outside. Gomez said Sutton and Galman tried to keep him around to continue arguing with him.

Some of the details about what happened next were murky as Gomez recounted them.

Ultimately, he said, he walked home and a short time later tried to leave in his truck. But, he said, Sutton and Galman were nearby and stopped him in the middle of the road at Baudin and S. Murat streets.

He said he had no choice but to get out of his car and confront them.

“We are gonna kill you,” he recalled them shouting at him. The next thing he knew, he was being pummeled.

“It was a violent fight,” Gomez said. “It just took me by surprise.”

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A neighbor said he heard Gomez screaming from down the street. “They just beat him in the head,” she said. “The whole neighborhood, I believe, heard it. You had to. He was screaming.”

Sources earlier told WWL-TV that Gomez followed the men from the bar in his truck and attacked them with a stick. He acknowledged having a cane with him that he uses to help him walk but said he only used it to try to stave off the attackers.

“I tried to defend myself, but I couldn’t,” Gomez said.

Gomez said he was pleased to hear Galman and Sutton were arrested and disciplined, but he hoped for an apology from them.

WWL-TV reporters Danny Monteverde and Jade Cunningham and New Orleans Advocate reporter Ramon Antonio Vargas contributed to this report.

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