A University of Minnesota police officer grabbed a woman by the neck last summer after she kicked his car, according to assault charges.
Phillip J. Lombardi, 49, was charged Wednesday in Ramsey County District Court with three misdemeanors — two counts of fifth-degree assault and one count of disorderly conduct.
“The victim related that she was walking in the crosswalk when the defendant was making a turn almost striking the victim, who then kicked the car that led to an exchange of words between the two people,” the criminal complaint said. “The defendant drove a short distance and then exited his vehicle and walked to the victim and extended one arm toward her neck and grabbed her.”
The woman, a St. Paul city attorney, suffered a bruise on the left side of her body underneath the collarbone.
University spokesman Steve Henneberry said Lombardi was placed on paid leave Tuesday pending the outcome of an internal investigation. Lombardi began working with the department in 2003. He was listed on the university police’s website as an officer on the department’s “Coordinated Response Team.”
The criminal complaint filed against him gives this account of the July incident: St. Paul police were called to Smith and Chestnut streets about 12:10 p.m. on July 8. They met with a woman, who said that Lombardi grabbed her by the neck and then fled when a passerby yelled at him.
A witness at the scene photographed the suspect and his vehicle, which police eventually traced to Lombardi. The investigation was assigned to the Dakota County sheriff’s office because the victim is a St. Paul city employee.
The sheriff’s sergeant interviewed Lombardi, who admitting to confronting the woman but denied grabbing the woman’s throat, the complaint said. His car was not damaged by the woman’s kick.
“He did admit that he ‘took his right arm and placed it on the victim’s shoulder and moved her backward,’ ” the charges said. “He further stated that he had his hand on her for ‘a second.’ After this the victim began to scream, which drew the attention of several passersby.
“Fearing he would be caught in the middle of a group of people he got back in his vehicle and left.”
Lombardi was charged via summons and is not in custody. His attorney said Friday that he denies the charges.