Woman accuses Norwalk cops of menacing, unlawful restraint

Police chief calls matter 'huge pay back' by sheriff's office.
Matt Roche
Apr 28, 2014


A Norwalk woman who backed her vehicle into an unmarked police car filed a criminal complaint against a pair of police detectives, alleging menacing and unlawful restraint.

Norwalk Police Chief Dave Light countered that a Huron County sheriff's detective is trying to deflect attention away from the sheriff's office following a controversial raid that has generated much public interest.

Light said the woman who faces a May 6 court hearing "is probably squirming" because she was caught driving without a license and her allegations are an attempt to avoid prosecution.

The accident took place in the early afternoon on April 9 in the Rustic Hills Mobile Home Park. Jessica Rothgeb, 27, of 5144 N. U.S. 250, Lot 135, was backing out her driveway when she collided with a vehicle containing police Detective Sgts. Seth Fry, Jim Fulton and a woman.

The detectives were parked there, Light said, because they had just finished a drug investigation at the Midtown Manor mobile home park at 520 Milan Ave., which is inside city limits. They had followed the suspected drug dealer's vehicle into Rustic Hills, which is located just outside the city limits and were in the process of getting the suspect's license plate number when the accident occurred.

"He was very pissed off because I ruined their investigation," Rothgeb said about Fry.


Young children with disabilities

Rothgeb, whose 1-year-old son was a passenger in her car, said she was on her way to the bus stop in the mobile home park to pick up her other children, ages 5 and 7, both of whom have disabilities.

"I looked and nobody was behind me," she said. "As I started to back up, I just tapped them. I hadn't made it out of my driveway."

Rothgeb and the detectives exited their vehicles.

Fry was "very offensively rude" during the ensuing conversation, Rothgeb said, including asking her: "What the (expletive) is your problem?"

When she inquired whether the detectives were OK, they responded, "It doesn't matter because we're undercover cops," Rothgeb said. But the pair never showed her their badges, she added.

Rothgeb said she was told, "Keep your mouth shut and sit there."

Fulton and Fry called the state Highway Patrol and the sheriff's office to investigate the accident.

"They told her she could not leave the scene," Light said. "They didn't want her to move the car. ... I'm not sure how she could have interpreted that."

However, Fulton and Fry didn't physically detain the woman, the chief added.

Rothgeb said her 7-year-old son is "half deaf," while her 5-year-old daughter has "huge sensory problems and is in the process of being diagnosed as bipolar."

The mother fretted about her children's safety, wondering what they would do if she wasn't at the bus stop. Because of her son's hearing problem, she said "he could have got hit by a car."

"He's not going to hear it speeding by," Rothgeb added. "They put my kids in danger."

Between 15 and 30 minutes later, Rothgeb said Fulton inquired about where her children were and "finally let me go to get my kids."

Light said "it was taking so long for the deputies to get out there," so his detectives permitted her to walk down to the bus stop and retrieve her children.

The son and daughter stayed at the bus stop, waiting for mom to arrive.

"I was very proud of them," Rothgeb said of her children.

At 3:37 p.m., sheriff's Detective Eric Bardar finally arrived at the scene. The detective had been assigned because the sheriff's office was short-handed with road deputies that day, Chief Deputy Ted Patrick said. Bardar was assigned to incident listed as a "private property crash."

Bardar and Patrick interviewed Rothgeb as well as Fulton, Fry and the woman who was in the back seat of the unmarked police car. The woman reported her "back was sore as a result of the accident," according to the report from the sheriff's office, but no one else was injured.

Rothgeb was charged with driving with a suspended driver's license. She also didn't have proof of insurance at the time, but was told to bring it to her court hearing in Norwalk Municipal Court.


'Trumped-up deal'?

Bardar returned to Rothgeb's residence April 11 -- the same day a story about the accident appeared on the front page of the Reflector. Following their conversation, she filed a complaint of menacing and unlawful restraint.

"She had filed a menacing complaint about Detective Fry from the police department," Patrick said Sunday. "She filed it with Detective Bardar. She has asked for an investigation. We'll investigate her complaint."

Light sees things differently.

"I think this is just a huge pay back and deflection, trying to take attention away from them," Light said about the sheriff's office.

Bardar recently was caught "speeding through town in an unmarked car, blowing stop signs," Light said.

Police Sgt. Jim Montana saw the vehicle and stopped it. Bardar then "turned on the red lights" and Montana realized it was a fellow law-enforcement person, Light said.

Bardar "was upset about that" and called Fulton about the traffic stop, the chief said.

Light expressed concern about the legality of Bardar's action during that incident.

And since Bardar returned to Rothgeb's residence two days after the accident, and now a criminal complaint has been filed against the detectives, Light said the matter "is a trumped-up deal."

"Eric Bardar, with his lack of knowledge of the law, is going to run along with her trying to deflect the attention to the Norwalk Police Department," the chief said.

As far as Fry and Fulton being out of their jurisdiction, the sheriff's office personnel "seem to be overly concerned we were 200 yards outside the city limits," Light said.

Light contends his detectives are being targeted because of the negative publicity generated from the sheriff's office's recent raid at 114 1/2 Benedict Ave. Light questions the methods used by sheriff's detectives.

"This all comes from people who mean well but they have a lack of experience and training on the job," Light said. "If you don't train them, this stuff is bound to happen."

Sometime before the controversial Benedict Avenue raid, Light said he spoke with Sheriff Dane Howard, asking his department to stay out of Norwalk when conducting drug investigations. Light said Norwalk has its own detective bureau, and the sheriff's detectives should be used in Huron County's rural areas and in communities that don't have their own detectives.

Light said Howard denied the request, contending that because Norwalk is part of Huron County, his deputies have every right to be there.

Due to deputies' uninvited involvement, however, several Norwalk police investigations have been hampered or ruined, Light said.

Light also questions deputies' tactics, training and knowledge of the law. He cited one raid on Henry Street in which a woman -- who had undergone a hysterectomy the previous day -- was sitting on the toilet naked when deputies burst the bathroom, "pointing a gun at her head." The woman's daughter was arrested after pills were found in the residence.

As for the allegations against Fry and Fulton, the case has been sent to the Huron County Prosecutor's Office for consideration of charges. No decision has been announced.

"We'll have to wait to see how this investigation plays out," Light said.


Tom Paine's picture
Tom Paine

I am a citizen of both the City of Norwalk and Huron County. Who am I supposed to "side" with in this matter? My local police? My county sheriff? This is ridiculous.

We are (rightfully) expected to respect our law enforcement departments. And yet those departments are holding an open "turf war" and showing no respect for one another? This "pissing match" will only create resent and distrust for BOTH offices.

The rule of law is now in question here. And that is a very dangerous place for any community to find itself in. We are in the middle of a narcotics epidemic and we are ranked #5 in the state for unemployment. This is no time for a public feud between our peace keepers.

The mayor and commissioners may want to quell this fight now, before our entire population has lost all respect for both departments.


Whose side are you on? Evidently the HCSO, if you want this to be swept under the rug.

Edit to add: I live in Huron Co. Not in Norwalk. Any cop who defies the 4th Amendment in the Bill of Rights needs taken down.

Tom Paine's picture
Tom Paine

No one is suggesting that it be "swept under the rug". And in asking "whose side" I'm on, you are missing my entire point, luvblues2: there should be no sides. We are accountable to both departments and one doesn't trump the other. There are no "sides" for the citizens of Norwalk/Huron County.

Tom Paine's picture
Tom Paine

To put it another way: if mom and dad are fighting, and I am a child in their custody (living under a roof that is maintained by both) whose "side" am I on? Neither. I am simply stuck questioning who is truly in charge (mom or dad).

And the next time dad grounds me, I go to mom and complain (and vice versa). Until eventually, there is no rule of law in the home; only chaos, created by the in-fighting of both authority figures.

Surely you can see my concern here. I am not on a "side" because there should be no sides when it comes to law enforcement and various departments coexisting in the same geographic location.


The law doesn't say anything about how your parents get along as long as the cops don't have to show up for domestic abuse. You are comparing apples and lemons.

The 4th amendment clearly states:
The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.


Tom Paine, we are not dealing with children here so to put it in a responsible adult way, would you rather have a cop with over 20 years of experience or one with only a few years of experience handle a serious criminal complaint you have interest or are a victim in? The norm in law enforcement is to have an experienced cop as a detective, not one with no experience at all. There is a good reason for this that is easily comprehensible. There are no "sides" here. The Sheriff's Office got rid of their experienced detectives and put inexperienced robots who worship their boss in the detective bureau. NPD has experienced detectives with years of training and experience. Have you ever seen or heard Sheriff Howard stick up for his troops like Chief Light? Howard and his cronies are digging a hole. Chief Light is being up front and honest and has real evidence to back it up. He has watched and experienced the travesty that (HCSO) continually undermined his departments hard work and dedication to the City of Norwalk. NPD and the HCSO used to work together until Howard was elected. I just hope the people of Huron County are paying attention to what the HCSO is really about. If you always tell the truth, you have nothing to fear. Howard is too worried about his image and agenda to allow the truth to even be a possibility.


I know several police officers from cities/villages in Huron Co. as well as several Huron Co. Sheriffs deputies. Every city/village cop I know has a problem with the way the Sheriffs office is operating. As far as the deputies I know, some of them are hating their jobs right now and others are loving it. Either way, obviously, the problem lies within the S.O. I hate to say it because I know Sheriff Howard is a great guy but I think he may not be a great Sheriff.


Dave Light is a man of unquestionable ethics. I have no doubt that what he's saying is true and i hope the rest of the county realizes it too before The SO runs roughshod over all of our rights. NPD has repeatedly tried to make friendly inroads to the HCSO. Unfortunately the children there will have nothing to do with it.


They should issue a citation to Bardar for the traffic violations. If he didn't have lights and siren on when committing the violations, he was wrong. Obviously Bardar does not know the laws regarding operating an emergency vehicle.

Very unprofessional of the SO to disregard the PD's request and compromise their cases. The SO and PD don't necessarily have to work side by side but certainly there should be some modicum of professional respect so as not to compromise cases.

Looks like Howard needs to attend some professional leadership course for law enforcement. The actions of the deputies are Howard's fault. His subordinates will only be as professional as Howard tasks them to be. Arrogance and ignorance starts at the top and bleeds down into the organization at the SO. Just as professionalism and knowledge bleed down at the NPD.

Take a look at the professional training in police leadership and management at the NPD and try to match with the SO. Again, that lack of training is Howard's fault.


The diffrence here is if Light's guys were wrong, I have no doubt he'll do the right thing. And if the sheriff ordered his men to do this (and I think he did) It's just another black eye for them. I dont see this relationship getting better anytime soon.

Cliff Cannon

For full disclosure, I must admit,that I am a long time admirer of Chief Light who I consider to be a tremendous man of honor, who overflows with integrity.

Further, I am extremely proud of N.P.D. As a rule you will find only dedicated people who bring their best everyday to every situation. Then I add, I am friends with Detective's Fulton & Fry and consider them very good at their jobs.

So like so many, I really do not understand the seemingly constant bullying of N.P.D. by the sheriff's department. Obviously, the sheriff in any county government is an extremely powerful person. So maybe it is just arrogance that looks down upon N.P.D. as some sort of a 'junior partner' in law enforcement.

Whatever it is, that makes the H.C.S.O. look down upon N.P.D. It short change's every citizen, all the while, seemingly making it very difficult for every cop in the county ----not just Norwalk--- to have a good working relationship with the H.C.S.O.

So one must ask; " Why " ? as in; Why destroy the trust every cop must have in one another ? Why when bad guys are growing like weeds in your garden,do you fight with, rather than work together with other lawmen ? Why is that most crucial element of police work----the respect of the citizen's--- so callously disregarded ?

Personally, I like Sheriff Howard and trust that the whirlwind of events currently surrounding his office, will help him grow into becoming an even better,wiser man.

Because one thing is for sure here. The line between good and evil will always be blue and bullying your fellow cops does nothing but bend that line in ways it should not be bent

Kottage Kat

Thank you
Pollyanna Cannon


Kottage Kat.... Unfair.

Mr. Cannon always has very well thought out, as well as informed comments. He doesn't comment from gut/knee jerk reactions to other commenters. Not to mention, I've been educated on many topics through his posts.

Kottage Kat

This a comment column. We are all entitled to our opinion. I respect your right to express yours. I have found in my many years on this earth life is not always fair.
NEVER did deny Mr. Cannon does not speak elequently. We all have friends. I simply choose not publish my opinion prefaced by a list of friends.
Thank you for your kind words.

Cliff Cannon

@ K.K. Now I understand the point you were trying to make in your first comment. Honestly, I read your comment over and over trying to figure out the point you were making, with no luck. So thanks for clarifying to ISPSP as well as myself.

So let me just say this in response. Obviously, we live in a small town and in my viewpoint, if one desires to have their opinion taken seriously---- they better be honest.

Because let's face it-- most people talk about other people-- rather than the issues of the day, true ? Since I blog under my own name, is it not better to speak the truth--for the sake of creditability-- rather than have some cynically note that I am indeed friends with the men I listed as friends ?

Honestly K.K.,in articles like this one, where the stakes are high, the outcome in doubt, with each team settling in for a long siege. I am very glad, I blog under my own name.

Because, when I write " Personally, I like Sheriff Howard " or write of my other friends. Then who ever read's my commentary, knows I have no bone to pick, so they understand my central point: I don't care how we get there. For the safety of everyone. I simply want, what every citizen in this county should want-- law enforcement on the same team.

P.S. ISPSP : Thank-you for your kind words.

Kottage Kat

Think your going to beat Swiss Family soon.
I have to give you some grief, my reputation demands that.
Loved the extensive rhetoric in response

swiss family

Kat....could you clarify your definition of your use of the words "beat Swiss Family" in this instance for me Please?????????????????

swiss family

Wow...Kat are you OK??? you seem to not be making any sense??? is there anything I can do to help?? maybe take you to a meeting or something?? let me know.. I am here for you if you need me


Very well said Tom Paine!! I sure hope though the NPD didn't keep her from retrieving those young kids though. Very lucky nothing happened to them!

Tom Paine's picture
Tom Paine

I agree with everything that Cliff Cannon stated above. There are no sides when it comes to law enforcement. There are good guys and bad guys in this world (to make it very two dimensional) and both the Sheriff and the NPD are good guys. The bad guys are the ever-multiplying dealers, who are loving the fact that the good guys have turned on one another and are publicly discrediting one another.


if sheriffs dept was short handed why didn't the sheriff himself go he always claims to be a hands on type of guy maybe because no photographers were there to take the picture of him at an accident scene


Does anyone care that Howard refuses to obey the public request for records? If everything was on the up and up, then he should be providing the records requested instead of ignoring them, I mean violating the law.

The NPD has a history of producing solid police work and strong cases. Is Howard jealous of that and feel the need to place and imaginary importance of their cases over that of the NPD?

A true professional law enforcement officer would have honored a request by other law enforcement agencies in order to not compromise their cases. Furtherance of justice is a phrase that comes to mind. Some people just need to have their names and face in the media as a self reassurance they are important.


Sounds like the movie Supertroopers......Officer Rod Farva
Well meow...sounds like we have a problem in Huron County...lol


Another strange thing is that Bardar returns to Rothgeb's residence two days later. She files a menacing/unlawful restraint complaint. 17 days later and the investigation isn't complete? This is a serious allegation and even more so since it involves law enforcement officers.

One would think the SO would be hot on this. I'm sure the prosecutor's office had been notified and the wheels put in motion to get an impartial law enforcement agency to investigate. Or is it what it really is, a distraction from the real problem?

If anything, this will just shine a brighter light on the ignorance of the SO in law and constitutional matters.


Bardar? Wears the uniform but knows zero about law enforcement. No doubt the sheriff told him what to do and he did it. If you need evidence Bardar will find it. Anyway he can. "Plant"


First of all she should not had been driving without a valid liscence ,how can you not see a car parked when you are.backing out ? I'm sure the cops were rude to her as they usually are .This is not a lawsuit .She was in the wrong ,the cops are trying to clean up the drug issues that are taking over the town .


I agree with the general consensus here that the HCSO is struggling from poor leadership, lack of training, and lack of experience. I know several deputies and CO's that work for Huron County, and it amazes me how a former dog-warden becomes a deputy and gets promoted to detective without even having 5 years of experience. This is also true for several of the other detectives (and detective-sergeants) in that agency. I know for a fact that several of these people that have gotten promotions, or K-9 handler positions, have personal ties to Howard and got promoted with just a few years at most of experience. I'm not saying that these officers are bad, but it's just a testament to how lack of training and experience leads to problems.

Also, from what I have read, the Norwalk detectives did nothing wrong in regards to the accident. They did not physically restrain the woman, they simply told her she could not leave until the Sheriff's office or OSHP arrived. Doing so would be a crime, and the average citizen has just as much right to tell somebody not to leave the scene after an accident.


As I read this I find 2 main points to this story 1. I don't care what the woman was going for. she should not have been behind the wheel of that car, she should have made other arraignments for picking her children up. So if the children were made to wait without an adult with them for 15-30 minutes at a bus stop she is as much at fault as Fulton and Fry. To have a license is a privilege not an entitlement. And apparently she gave up her privilege.2. Yes some cops have a bad attitude and think they have the right to speak to you in any bad manner they choose. This is an issue that needed addressed a long time ago, this can't be the first complaint the NPD has gotten for this issue. Was this issue addressed? And how was it addressed?. So hopefully now this has been brought to light through the news paper, if indeed it happened as the woman reports. will this be taken care of through some kind of training, on how to deal with the public? I'm not so naive that I don't know the public is not so nice talking to the cops either,but I know I was always told where there is no wood the fire goes out. So all I can say is don't look at it as a payback, but and opportunity to make the NPD better in dealing with the public.


Reminds me of the ending credits from Sheriff Lobo

Kottage Kat

Why did Barder go alone. He should have a witness to his conversation with this person.
Who knows what was said?????
Just curious????