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Bar fight involving Merced deputies under investigation, police chief confirms

Merced City Councilman Kevin Blake is sworn in for a second term Monday, Dec. 17, 2018, at the Merced Civic Center. The Merced Police Department on Thursday was investigating whether Blake, a Merced County sheriff’s sergeant, and other members of the Merced County Sheriff’s Office were involved in a fight that broke out in a Downtown Merced pool hall late Saturday, Dec. 15, 2018, officials said.
Merced City Councilman Kevin Blake is sworn in for a second term Monday, Dec. 17, 2018, at the Merced Civic Center. The Merced Police Department on Thursday was investigating whether Blake, a Merced County sheriff’s sergeant, and other members of the Merced County Sheriff’s Office were involved in a fight that broke out in a Downtown Merced pool hall late Saturday, Dec. 15, 2018, officials said. vshanker@mercedsunstar.com

Merced police are investigating a bar fight last weekend involving several members of the Sheriff’s Office, possibly including Sgt. Kevin Blake, who also serves as a Merced City Council member.

Authorities on Thursday declined to provide many details, saying it was too early in the investigation to comment.

Blake refused to comment on the incident twice this week, including by telephone Thursday when he told a Sun-Star reporter: “I have no comment on whatever you’re asking about. Don’t call me again. Have a good night.”

Merced County Sheriff Vern Warnke said he was aware of the incident but could not comment, calling it “a personnel issue.”

Merced Police Chief Chris Goodwin said his department is investigating the incident, including security camera footage.

Goodwin said officers were called about 11:45 p.m. Saturday to The Cue Spot Billiards on Main Street in downtown Merced. Goodwin said the initial call was described as a “peace disturbance.”

“When officers got there, nobody was cooperative,” Goodwin said.

The chief said the only person who spoke with the officers claimed to have tried to break up a fight involving multiple people. That person, whose name was not released, claimed to have been struck during the struggle but declined to press criminal charges. Goodwin said no one at the scene requested medical attention.

No one was arrested.

Goodwin said police investigators are working to determine how many Sheriff’s Office employees may have been involved in the incident. The chief said officers are aware that Blake was present during the incident but said it was too early in the investigation to comment on details.

Goodwin said investigators were interviewing several witnesses throughout the week. The chief described the inquiry as a “criminal investigation.”

“Hopefully, we’ll get this investigation done ASAP,” Goodwin said. “If we find out somebody was assaulted, or multiple people were assaulted, we could (forward charges) to the DA’s office.”

Goodwin said numerous people were present during the incident and he encouraged anyone who may have witnessed it to contact police – especially, the chief said, anyone who may have captured anything on cellphone video.

The Fresno County Sheriff’s Office is conducting an independent administrative review of the incident at the request of the Merced County Sheriff’s Office, Fresno sheriff’s spokesman Tony Botti said.

Botti declined to comment on any details of the incident. He said Fresno sheriff’s investigators would share their findings with the Merced Police Department.

Mayor Mike Murphy said he wouldn’t comment on the matter until the investigation concludes.

Blake was first elected in 2013 to a five-year term representing District 4 on the Merced City Council. He was sworn in Monday to a four-year term on the council after winning re-election in November against Karla Seijas.

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