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"Airport executive, guard in tussle at Palm Springs health club"
Wednesday, June 29, 2011
Airport executive, guard in tussle at Palm Springs health club
Confrontation included Palm Springs International Airport Executive Director
The Palm Springs (CA) Desert Sun
A dispute over exercise equipment at a local gym involving Palm Springs' top
airport official and a hospital security guard boiled over Monday into a
Palm Springs International Airport Executive Director Tom Nolan and Desert
Hot Springs resident Tupe Faleafaga gave conflicting accounts Wednesday of
what happened at Gold's Gym in the 4000 block of Airport Centre Drive.
The incident took place about 12:40 p.m., according to police.
Neither man was arrested after officers responded because it was ruled a
mutual attack and both men declined to press charges, according to Palm
Springs police spokeswoman Officer Rhonda Long.
In a statement to The Desert Sun, Nolan said he was hit in the head, cut
over his right eye and briefly knocked unconscious while using weight
equipment during his lunch hour at Gold's. "I gained consciousness on the
floor with a young man attempting to choke me while others quickly came to
my rescue," he said.
Nolan described the police report as "inaccurate" and said he did not fight
with Faleafaga, who he said assaulted him without provocation.
"My only regret is that I should have been more cautious about this
individual's behavior and I should have summoned the club's management to
address the situation," Nolan said in the statement. The police report has
not been released because the case has not been closed by detectives,
according to Sandra Benstead, Palm Springs Police Department records
Faleafaga said Nolan prompted the fight by taking the workout bench
Faleafaga was using and aggressively guarding it after another patron took
Nolan's neighboring bench.
Gym patrons often have to share weights and equipment with others when their
workouts overlap and the room gets crowded.
"He just came in and pushed me away," Faleafaga, 23, said Wednesday. "I
asked him nicely" to give it back, Faleafaga said. Nolan refused and the
exchange grew heated, Faleafaga said.
He said Nolan physically blocked him from taking the bench and that Nolan
later kicked him in the knee.
"That's when I just swung at him at we both went down," Faleafaga said.
Other patrons broke up the men and then police officers arrived.
Nolan, who earlier said he considered the "personal matter closed," did not
respond to requests for comment about Faleafaga's account. He has served as
the Palm Springs airport's executive director since 2007 and earned more
than $184,000 in wages in 2009, according to data filed with the state
Faleafaga said he regretted hitting Nolan.
"I was nervous and scared at the same time," he said. "I'm not that kind of
guy, getting trouble and starting stuff. I felt embarrassed with him
treating me like that."
In his statement, Nolan said he asked if the club had security cameras that
could "set the record straight" on the police report but there were none.
"I hope that anyone reading this does not conclude that health clubs are
dangerous because they are not," he stated. "I highly recommend becoming a
member of a local club because the benefit from the exercise gained in these
fine facilities greatly outweighs the probability of ever experiencing what
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