Woman hurt in brawl at Blue Martini with off-duty officer

By Al Pefley bio | email

WEST PALM BEACH, FL (WFLX) - A Lake Worth woman says she was involved in a brawl with an off-duty West Palm Beach Police officer at a bar at City Place a few days ago.

She was taken to a hospital, and then ended up in jail.

The officer is the focus of an internal affairs review and she says the officer went too far. She says an off-duty police officer, who is twice her size and almost twice her age, snapped and  came after her.

"I was just holding my head, crying. I've never really been in that much pain before in my life,"  said Barbara Rutledge, 24,  of suburban Lake Worth. Rutledge says she was attacked by an off-duty West Palm Beach Police officer, Joseph Rizzo, while she was at the Blue Martini, a bar at City Place with her boyfriend.

She says it all started when she accidentally brushed her shoulder against Rizzo. At the time, she says she did not realize he was an off-duty policeman since he was not in uniform.

"We exchanged words, and he slapped me across the face and then put his hands onto the back of my head and slammed it on the back of the bar. And, then, I took my drink and threw it in his face, and then he picked me up by my throat and threw me on the ground," Rutledge said.

She says she got up off the floor, and bouncers escorted Rizzo outside.

About two minutes later,  she and her boyfriend went outside to leave, and Rizzo she says, came after her.

"He charged through a crowd to get to me and tackled me like a football player, and he grabbed me again by my head and pulled me by my hair 10-15 feet give or take, and I had chunks of hair falling out. Chunks. Then, he grabbed me, sat on top of me and was just slamming my head on the ground," Rutledge said.

She's accused of smashing a martini glass into Rizzo's nose, but, she says, that never happened.

She showed us photos of her injuries, bruises and cuts on her elbow, ankle and neck.

Rutledge feels she should not have been charged, when the officer was the aggressor.

"It's not fair, it's not fair at all. His job is to protect and serve, not beat and bruise," Rutledge said.

Rutledge was charged with aggravated battery.  A West Palm Beach Police Department spokesman says Officer Rizzo is on  medical leave. I checked Rizzo's file and found that he's had 44 citizen complaints filed against him since 1998.

Police won't comment on the June 5 incident at Blue Martini,  because internal affairs is now investigating what happened.

There is surveillance video of the brawl, but police are not releasing it at this point.