Felony charge to be reduced
The felony charge against a Superior woman accused of battering a Superior Police officer will be reduced today, according to her attorney.
Natasha Nashai Lancour, 28, faces a felony charge of battery of a peace officer and a misdemeanor charge of disorderly conduct stemming from a Jan. 5 arrest caught on video by a squad car’s dash board camera.
Lancour’s attorney, Rick Gondik, said District Attorney Dan Blank plans to reduce the felony charge to a misdemeanor count of resisting arrest during a preliminary hearing today in Douglas County Circuit Court. With the reduction, Gondik said, the stakes are not as high as they would have been. Now Lancour will be out from under the cloud of a felony charge, he said. He expects an April status conference will be set for the case.
Calls and emails to Blank were not returned as of press time.
Two dozen people rallied during an NAACP press conference at the Douglas County Courthouse Wednesday to ask that the criminal charges be dropped against Lancour, who was punched repeatedly by Superior Police Officer George Gothner during the arrest.
The video of the arrest sparked controversy in the community about his use of force. Gothner has been put on paid administrative leave and an investigation into the incident has been turned over to the Wisconsin Department of Justice, Superior Police Chief Charles LaGesse said during a Tuesday press conference.
“Along with the investigation that is currently being led by the state of Wisconsin, we ask for these trumped-up charges against Natasha Lancour to be dropped,” said Stephan Witherspoon of Superior, a friend of Lancour’s, Wednesday. “It is my hope that the Superior Police Department hold this officer accountable for his actions and practice zero tolerance for this kind of behavior.”
Lancour herself attended Wednesday’s event.
“I’m grateful to walk in the door and see all the support of people in the community that came out to support me,” she said. “I’m also excited that the state is taking over the case, it’s not in closed department hands.”
It shows the beginning of something new, Lancour said.
“People are tired of being, having their rights violated and the community’s stepping out and speaking up and I’m just one of many faces,” she said.
In the crowd was Mike Almond of Superior, who works with the Superior Police Department as a member of the Citizen Watch. When he first saw the video, the Superior man was surprised and angered.
“At some point I even thought, could this be my kids 10 years down the road,” Almond said.
Working with Community Policing Officer Bonnie Beste, Almond has set up child safety events and is in the process of planning a basketball game between officers and people of color in the community to improve communication.
“We’re trying to do stuff and I’m not going to stop doing stuff because some knucklehead, you know, did something he wasn’t supposed to do or could have handled it differently,” Almond said. “We all have bad days but you have to be accountable for what you do.”
Event organizers said one way to improve communication city-wide would be to form a Citizen Review Board like the one the Duluth Police Department launched in 2012.
Duluth pastor Gabriel Green, the executive director of the Wolffe Cultural Center, is one of the board members.
“My job is to build a relationship with the Duluth Police Department and the citizens,” he said, and it’s working. “Not only do I feel like we’re being listened to, I feel like the officers are more conscientious of the decisions and choices that they make, not because they are fearful from us, but because of oversight.”
LaGesse said that the city’s Police and Fire Commission serves the same purpose as Duluth’s Citizen Review Board. The commission is a group of citizens selected by the mayor and approved by Council who have the power to hear complaints from citizens and to bring charges against members of the police and fire department.
Rogier Gregoire, co-chairman of the board for the Clayton, Jackson, McGhie Memorial in Duluth, told those at the press conference it was important to remember that many officers do a great job, a sentiment echoed by Lancour.
“This doesn’t change my view on the police department,” she said. “It does change my view on Gothner himself.”
The release of the arrest video and events like Wednesday’s ensure the incident will not get swept under the rug, said Almond. The Superior man said he hopes something good will come out of it.
“I want it to get better,” said the father of four. “I’m going to keep trying. We gotta do something.”