Police find doors locked when responding to fight at Middletown bar

Bar Boca on Charles Sreet in Middletown. STAFF FILE PHOTO

Combined ShapeCaption
Bar Boca on Charles Sreet in Middletown. STAFF FILE PHOTO

Two people were arrested early Saturday at a Middletown bar already under scrutiny by police.

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Officers dispatched to a fight at about 1 a.m. found the doors at Bar Boca on Charles Street locked.

All three exits, including the emergency exit, were locked, according to the Middletown police report. Officers began knocking loudly, demanding the doors be opened.

Eventually a woman said “Who is it?,” according to the report. Officers said they heard a male voice and a woman inside say, “Don’t open that door.”

Police said they needed to check on people inside the bar and if the door was not open, the people inside would be arrested.

Officers reportedly heard a woman inside say, “I guess we are going to jail.”

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Eventually officers were able to open the door. A woman who had been speaking with officers, Azaria Jackson, told police that Joesph Ruscigno, the manager, told her not to open the door.

Ruscigno and bar owner Ebony Dudley acknowledged there had been a disturbance inside and after the bouncer separated the parties involved, they locked the door.

Police told Ruscigno and Dudley that locking the doors was a violation of their liquor permit and they had hindered an investigation to check on the welfare of people in the bar.

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Ruscigno, 65, of Fairfield Twp., was charged with obstructing official business and transported to the Middletown City Jail.

Dudley, 30, of Fairfield Twp., was also charged with obstructing official business. She was taken to Atrium Medical Center for treatment of cuts to her finger, according to the police report.

There were approximately 20 people around the bar, including a 17-year-old who said she had been consuming alcohol but not at the bar, according to the police report. She was charged with underage consumption and a curfew violation.

Some patrons said the disturbance occurred when a person came into the bar and started assaulting the teen girl and others jumped in.

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Ruscigno was the former manger of Double’s Bar in Hamilton, where last summer a fatal shooting occurred in the parking lot. That building has since been razed.

Ruscigno was arraigned Monday in Middletown Municipal Court and is scheduled to be back in court later this month for a pre-trial hearing.

Information about the status of Dudley’s case was not immediately available.

Last month, Middletown police and the State Investigative Unit conducted an investigation at Bar Boca and found six liquor violations, including drug use that led to one arrest, according to Middletown Police Chief Rodney Muterspaw.

Residents who live near the Middletown bar previously told the Journal-News that they want the establishment closed permanently because of safety concerns that lower property values.

Police have received complaints about the bar from residents and midnight patrol officers, the chief said.

“We’re working on getting it shut down,” Muterspaw previously told the Journal-News. “We don’t want it open. The community doesn’t want it open. It’s not fair to the residents who live there. It’s a bad place in that neighborhood. I know that sounds harsh, but I’m tired of being nice to people who don’t care about the city.”

About 65 residents and business owners in the area have signed a petition asking the city to close Bar Boca.

Lt. Jimmy Cunningham said police are scheduled to meet soon with bar management, the building owner and their attorneys to try to find a solution.

Staff writer Rick McCrabb contributed to this report.

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