Clerks who work at a Clyde Road gas station are forced to dial 911 after two police officers allegedly lost control. They are accused of doing everything from stealing pizza and punching a clerk to posing as Homeland Security.
It was last Saturday afternoon when a pit stop for a Romulus couple at a Hartland Township Mobile station took on a life of its own.
"They should know better. I mean, we deal with this day in and day out," said Livingston County Sheriff Bob Bezotte.
That is because the man and woman caught on surveillance video are police officers. Richard Frederick works for the Wayne County Airport Authority, and his girlfriend, Renee Zima, is a TSA officer.
Sheriff Bezotte said it all started when the couple, already fueled by alcohol, went to buy some more liquor and began arguing with the clerk. That concerned clerk dialed 911, but it did not end there. We are told Zima flashed her badge, claimed she is with Homeland Security and then walked out with two pieces of pizza.
"They went back out and asked them to come back in and pay for their items, and that's when it kind of escalated to the next level," Bezotte said.
When the clerk tried to get the license plate number, Bezotte says Zima tried to bend it. In fact, both spent the next few minutes trying to block it. Frederick put the hatch up so the employee could not read it. When the clerk tried to pull it back down, surveillance video shows Frederick going after him. That is when the off-duty officer allegedly punched him in the face.
There were plenty of witnesses, including an off-duty Livingston County deputy, who happened to be getting gas at the time and tried to intervene.
"Kind of disheartening," said Bezotte. "He knows better. I mean, he's probably made arrests for assault and battery. He knows what the laws are. He knows what lines not to cross, and he crossed it."
The couple took off north on U.S. 23, but it did not matter. Deputies already knew who they were because Zima used her credit card to pay for the liquor.
We tried to speak to the couple, who share a home in Romulus. Their Ford Explorer with the bent license plate was there, but no one came to the door.
Frederick told investigators he only punched the clerk because he felt threatened by a group of store employees that had surrounded him. However, the video shows that nobody except Zima was standing around him at the time.
We are told Frederick is facing a misdemeanor assault and battery charge.
"It gives law enforcement in general... a black eye. We enforce the law. We don't break the law," Bezotte said.
We are also told both the Wayne County Airport Authority and the TSA have launched internal investigations into the officers' actions. For now, we are told Zima has been placed on administrative leave and that Frederick is suspended and has entered rehab.
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