Written by Becca Habegger, Multimedia Journalist - bio | email
DUBUQUE (KWWL) -
A Des Moines man is claiming the owner of a Dubuque restaurant beat him up on Saturday.
Outside Salsa's Mexican Restaurant on Dubuque's Main Street, a group gathered Monday to protest what they call the senseless beating of their friend Matt Leavenworth.
"He was beaten pretty severely," supporter Eric Troy said. "His face was swollen quite a bit. We have photographs of that. And he was arrested and nobody else was arrested or charged with anything."
Leavenworth, 27, faces a charge of aggravated theft stemming from the incident.
According to the criminal complaint, Leavenworth tried stealing a decorative fake parrot from the restaurant Saturday night after he and his girlfriend had dinner there. She went to the restroom while Leavenworth went outside to wait for her before the two left.
The report says Salsa's owner Emiliano Ramirez confronted Leavenworth outside the restaurant about the theft. Leavenworth allegedly gave the parrot back, saying it was a joke.
The stories diverge greatly after that.
According to officials, Ramirez told Leavenworth at that point that he was about to call the police, at which point Leavenworth tried punching him. The court document said Leavenworth hit Ramirez several times on the forehead, prompting Ramirez to restrain Leavenworth until police officers arrived.
Leavenworth, however, said the owner and an employee started beating him up and that he didn't fight back. The incident took place on Eleventh Street, which runs alongside the restaurant and out of the view of customers inside.
County prosecutors are charging Leavenworth with aggravated theft. He was the only one charged.
"I was, you know, pretty upset," Leavenworth said. "I had just gotten beat pretty thoroughly by a couple of guys, and, yeah, I wanted to try to come at it at the angle to make sure they were held responsible for it, and that's just not how things turned out, which was just shocking."
Ramirez said he has owned Salsa's for eight years and stands by the account in the court document. He declined further comment.
Ramirez's brother is a Dubuque police officer, Ramirez confirmed. Some demonstrators outside Salsa's Monday and some folks online question a connection between that and the lack of charges against anybody else involved with the incident.
However, a statement from Dubuque police Lt. Scott Baxter on behalf of the department said, "Our (DPD's and the Dubuque County Attorney's Office) decision to charge someone or not charge someone with a criminal offense is never based on his/her relationship with an officer. I would also remind people that we (again, DPD & CA's Office) try our cases in a court of law, and not via social media where much of the information is hearsay and inaccurate."
After the incident, which left Leavenworth bloody and bruised, Leavenworth declined medical treatment and spent Saturday night in jail. He bonded out the next day and has now returned to his Des Moines home until his next court appearance.
Officials said the total cost of the theft was $15.
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