GALLUP, N.M. (KRQE) - The mayor of Gallup and the publisher of the Gallup Independentgot into a fistfight on Wednesday morning outside a Gallup bank,and both say the other started it.
Gallup police are investigating the altercation between MayorHarry Mendoza and Gallup Independent publisher Bob Zollinger, whichbegan around 11 a.m. Wednesday outside the Pinnacle Bank indowntown Gallup.
"There were punches being thrown and kicking going on," PinnacleBank branch director Tommy Haws told News 13. "A couple of ouremployees went outside and saw that."
Police say both men claim the other started the fight. Mendozatold police that Zollinger started poking him in the chest hittinghis pacemaker. Zollinger told police that Mendoza threw the firstpunch.
"It's kind of a he-said he-said here," Gallup Deputy PoliceChief John Allen told News 13.
Zollinger spoke with News 13 Wednesday night.
"He got me in the upper and lower lip," Zollinger said.Zollinger appeared to have a small cut to his left cheek.
Police indicate the fight centered around a series of storiesrecently published in the Gallup Independent linking Mendoza to thegang rape of a 16-year old girl back in 1948.
"Mr. Zollinger says he has located a victim from an allegedprior rape that he alleges the mayor is involved in," Allen toldNews 13.
Surveillance video from Pinnacle Bank obtained by News 13 showsthe two men hitting each other. There also was a series ofexchanges which led each man to chase after the other on separateoccasions. The fight lasted about 5 minutes before witnesses brokeit up.
Police confirmed Zollinger had injuries to his face. They saidMendoza suffered an injury to one of his hands.
After the fight was broken up, both men left the bank. Both menalso called police.
Police spent the day interviewing both men and looking throughthe surveillance tape. They are looking for people who may haveseen the initial exchange.
Mendoza did not return News 13's calls and there was no answerwhen News 13 knocked on the front door of his Gallup home.
Gallup City Attorney Dave Pederson told News 13 that Mendozainformed him of the altercation. He said the mayor insistedZollinger started the fight.
"The Mayor has indicated Mr. Zollinger forcefully poked him inthe chest with his index finger," Pederson said.
Zollinger denied that claim.
"No, I didn't touch him at all," Zollinger said.
Zollinger told News 13 that Mendoza hasn't answered repeatedrequests from the Gallup Independent to respond to the rapeallegations.
"He's just a thug," Zollinger said. "That's all he is andunfortunately he's our mayor."
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