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Tom Olsen, Forum News Service, Published January 25 2014

VIDEO: Superior, Wis., cop accused of assault is off streets during investigation

SUPERIOR, Wis. - A Superior police officer accused of punching a woman in the face earlier this month has been placed on administrative duty pending the outcome of a private investigation ordered by the department.

Officer George Gothner is accused of assaulting 28-year-old Natasha Lancour outside the Keyport Lounge on Jan. 5. Gothner, responding to a fight call, arrested Lancour, who has been charged with battery of an officer and disorderly conduct.

Superior Police Chief Charles LaGesse said in a statement Friday that the department is seeking all facts and interviews of available witnesses before reaching a conclusion.

“All records of the incident have been sent to an outside use of force instructor to allow an unbiased opinion on the appropriateness of the force used by the arresting officer,” LaGesse said.

Earlier in the day, Lancour’s attorney, Rick Gondik, expressed concern that Gothner was allowed to continue working on the streets during the investigation.

“It’s quite obvious from his demeanor, his aggressiveness, that there’s something going on,” Gondik told the News Tribune. “I’m not saying he should be fired, but he should be taken off the force and be evaluated. The chief can decide after the evaluations are done.”

Both Gondik and the department have asked citizens to come forward with videos or eyewitness accounts of the incident, which occurred just after 7 p.m.

Squad car footage of the incident shows Gothner arriving to find a group of people talking to other officers on the scene. Gothner immediately exits his car and approaches Lancour, who is yelling and gesturing with her arm.

After a brief confrontation, Gothner is seen dragging Lancour to the front of the squad car, where he slams her down on the hood. He then appears to punch her in the face with a closed fist at least once.

In his report, the officer wrote that Lancour scratched him in the face.

“Suddenly Lancour reached up with her left hand and struck and scratched me across the right side of my face. My reaction was that I gave her a closed-fist punch to the left side of her face,” he wrote.

The banter between Lancour and Gothner continued en route to the police station.

“You didn’t even warn me,” Lancour told the officer. “You didn’t even give me a chance. You just walked up to me and hit me.”

She then told him she would pray for him. Later, Gothner responds.

“There is no God, so be quiet,” the officer told her. “You’re saying what you believe. I can say what I believe.”

Gothner also pointed out the in-car camera to Lancour.

“When you watch the video with your big lawyer, Mr. Gondik, you’ll see where you’re wrong,” Gothner said.

Superior Police Department attorney Gregg Gunta told the Northland’s NewsCenter earlier this week that he had analyzed the video and believes it is a highly defensible case.

One person has already come forward with a cellphone video of the incident. The video was submitted anonymously to police and Gondik on Thursday.

Lancour will be in Douglas County Circuit Court on Friday for a preliminary hearing on the charges. Gondik said he intends to challenge probable cause and believes he has good reason for the charges to be dismissed.

“We’re hoping that the DA’s office does the right thing, although that remains to be seen,” he said. “I’m fairly certain that you couldn’t find 12 people on the planet, much less Douglas County that would convict her of battering a police officer. Besides, she’s been through enough with the police. She doesn’t need to be abused by the court system.”

District Attorney Dan Blank was out of the office Friday afternoon and did not immediately respond to an email request for comment on the charges.