law enforcement

Wood County honors 12 officers who died in line of duty

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News As local official gathered to honor law enforcement members Wednesday, they listened to the story of the first law man gunned down in Wood County more than a century ago. Standing on the steps of the Wood County Courthouse, Wood County Common Pleas Judge Matthew Reger talked about the first jury trial held in the courthouse in 1896. The case involved Thomas Jones – who was found guilty of murdering North Baltimore officer Jesse Baker. Jones and a couple other men of low moral standing had already robbed some safes in Jerry City. “Remember, this was an area flush with oil,” Reger said. While that oil created economic development, “it also attracted a criminal element,” the judge said. After safe-cracking in Jerry City, Jones and the two other men set their sights on the post office in North Baltimore. Newspaper accounts differ as to whether the men intended to steal postage stamps or break into the safe. But during the nighttime heist, a postal employee happened upon the robbery. The three men ran, and the postal worker found officer Jesse Baker, who was patrolling Main Street in North Baltimore. Baker, age 35, had been on the night watchman job for just six months, but he had his trusty canine with him – a bulldog named Jack. Baker found the culprits and ordered his dog to attack. Jack was able to bite Jones, but was then shot and killed by the man. Jones then turned his gun on Baker. The first two shots missed the officer, but the third went through his left eye, Reger said. Realizing he was mortally wounded, Baker asked to be taken home to his wife. He died about three hours later, around 5 a.m. Colors presented at law enforcement memorial service A manhunt ensued for Jones and the other two men, who were found outside Findlay. The jury found Jones guilty of murder. Reger reflected that Baker likely had little training, and no firearm. Yet he was committed to his job of protecting his community. “Jesse Baker is the first known officer killed in the line of duty in Wood County,” the judge said. “That is that same dedication I have seen from law enforcement every day.” Though they face circumstances where their lives are in peril, law enforcement officers do not buckle, he said. “Police officers remain stalwart…

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Wood County ‘park rangers’ changed to ‘park police’

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   The shouted command, “Stop, park ranger,” just doesn’t carry the same authority as “Stop, police.” For that reason and others, the Wood County Park District’s rangers asked the park board Tuesday to change their title from rangers to police officers. The park board voted unanimously to do so. In the past, the county park rangers had law enforcement and maintenance roles. That has changed, and the rangers now perform strictly law enforcement duties. The park rangers are certified Ohio Peace Officers, and the name change would clarify their authority. “In making this change, we are hoping to clarify exactly what we do as certified peace officers working in the park district, and to help our employees, visitors and neighbors feel more secure while being in or near our properties,” the rangers’ proposal stated. “As rangers, we constantly encounter people who have no idea what a park ranger is or that we are law enforcement officers,” the proposal continued. “We have had people question our need for carrying a gun, if we have the same authority as law enforcement, and challenge us when we try to enforce park rules and laws.” The rangers also said when working with multiple agencies and dispatchers, it takes time to explain their authority. When rangers formally make a criminal charge in court, they sometimes have to remind court employees that they are certified peace officers. “We believe that because of the public’s inability to distinguish exactly what we are or what we do, eventually an incident may escalate the need for force and thus escalate the liability of the park district,” their proposal stated. Wood County Park District Director Neil Munger said Delaware County’s park system has changed the title of its rangers to police. “It clears up any vagueness to what their responsibility is,” Munger said. Ranger Mark Reef agreed. “This is so the public can identify that we have law enforcement authority.” Toledo Metroparks still refers to its officers as rangers, according to Scott Carpenter, head of public relations for the metroparks. “We like them being called rangers,” Carpenter said, adding that the officers do more than protect people, by also looking out for nature. Carpenter also noted that all national parks are patrolled by park rangers, not park police. Wood County Park District Chief Ranger Todd Nofzinger said the name change will not change…


National manhunt continues for 2 men charged with rape and kidnapping of BG sisters

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   The national manhunt continues for two men wanted for the alleged rape and kidnapping of two sisters, ages 13 and 14, in Bowling Green. Two other men have been apprehended for the crime. Simon Juan Thomas, 24, from Guatemala, was arrested last week in Bowling Green. David Ramos Contreras, 27, from Mexico, was apprehended Thursday by the U.S. Marshals Service, in Lubbock, Texas. The two suspects remaining at large are Juan Garcia Rios Adiel and Arnulfo Ramos. The four men are charged with the rape and kidnapping of the two girls on June 28, according to Bowling Green Police Lt. Dan Mancuso. The sisters were staying at Days Inn, in Bowling Green, with their mother. The address listed for the family is Bowling Green. The four men were also staying at the hotel at the time. Police were notified after the mother took the girls to Wood County Hospital. Thomas was arrested by Bowling Green Police the next day. He was charged with unlawful sexual conduct with a minor and is being held in the Wood County jail with a $50,000 bond. Warrants were issued for the other three men. Police received a tip that Contreras was seen at the Walmart in Spring Meadows, in Lucas County, last Saturday, June 30. A store video captured images of Contreras walking with two women. Police were able to locate the women and determined they were not connected to the suspect, Mancuso said. “They believed he needed some assistance,” Mancuso said. “They believed they were doing a good deed helping someone out.” Information was then developed placing Contreras in Lubbock, Texas, after investigators for the U.S. Marshals Service and Bowling Green Police followed leads developed over the last two days. Contreras, who was found hiding under a bed in Lubbock, will be extradited back to Ohio. “He will come back to Wood County to face the charges,” Mancuso said. Nationwide warrants have been issued for the remaining two men at large, and numerous law enforcement agencies, including ICE, are working to find them. The case has received national attention, being posted on CNN news earlier this week. Bowling Green Police Division is receiving calls from across the nation, Mancuso said. “We still are getting numerous tips,” he said this morning. “We’re getting tips from other areas.” Bowling Green police are following up on local leads,…


New sheriff’s deputy in town for courthouse security

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Rob Eaton walked into a mess this morning on his first day on the job as director of security for the Wood County Courthouse Complex. “I walked in and there are alarms going off everywhere. I thought – Holy Toledo,” Eaton said this morning. The phones were down because of a system-wide problem with the phone lines, causing the alarms to blare at the courthouse. “It was baptism by fire,” Wood County Sheriff Mark Wasylyshyn said as he introduced Eaton to the county commissioners this morning. The phones were back in service by 8:20 a.m. Eaton has been with the sheriff’s office for 26 years, starting on the corrections staff, moving to road patrol, serving on the Special Response Team, and most recently in the civil division. He also served 14 years in the Army National Guard. Eaton will receive an annual salary of $65,894. He has no plans to change operations in courthouse security, set up under his predecessor Becky Ewing. “I’m looking forward to this challenge of working with everyone,” he said. Since October, the security at the courthouse complex has been divided. The sheriff’s office is in charge of the grounds, buildings and entrances. The court constables, led by Ron Dicus, are in charge of the courtrooms and adult probation. The primary challenge of the job is clear, Eaton said. “Making sure everyone is safe,” from the public to county employees, he said. At the same time, citizens must feel the courthouse complex is a public facility, Wasylyshyn said. “There’s a tough balance between making everyone feel welcome” and making sure they are save, the sheriff said. Also during his meeting with the county commissioners, Wasylyshyn reported that security staff members are now offering fingerprinting in the atrium at the request of the judges. He also mentioned that the security staff is trying to be more visible in the courthouse and county office building. The commissioners acknowledged seeing the staff throughout the complex.


‘Saved by the Belt’ more than just a slogan for some

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Last October, Richard “Fuzzy” David was driving a dump truck down U.S. 6 for his job with Jim Palmer Excavating when he was struck head-on. His truck was rammed so hard, it was turned sideways, the cab started to tear off the frame, and the driver’s door was pried open. David’s seat belt was credited with keeping him from flying out of the dump truck. He was injured, but was able to return to work – thanks to be buckled up at the time of the crash, said Sean Brennan, a friend and safety coordinator at Jim Palmer Excavating “He was saved by his belt,” Brennan said last week during a “Click It or Ticket” promotion organized by Wood County Safe Communities at Thayer Ford in Bowling Green. “There’s no way you can brace yourself,” Brennan said. “There’s no way you can get a seat belt on at the last minute.” Not only is wearing seat belts the law, it’s common sense, he added. Overall, Wood County motorists do pretty well at wearing their seat belts, according to Ohio State Patrol Lt Angel Burgos and Sandy Wiechman, coordinator of Wood County Safety Communities. Motorists’ use of seat belts in the county is 93 percent, compared to 84.3 percent in Ohio. Stops at various checkpoints in Wood County showed differing levels of compliance by drivers. The highest seat belt use (100 percent) was found in northern Wood County at Ohio 795 near the Interstate 75 interchange. The lowest compliance (83 percent) was found in southern Wood County on Ohio 18 at the I-75 interchange. Since 1975, seat belts have been credited with saving more than 300,000 lives in the U.S., according to Edgar Avila, president and chief executive officer of AAA. Last year, the Midwest ranked second in the nation for highest seat belt usage. “Let’s shoot for first place next year,” Avila said. Avila also stressed that it’s the driver’s duty to make sure everyone in the vehicle is belted in. “You are responsible for everyone riding in your vehicle,” he said. “Don’t be a casualty. Please wear your seat belts.” In Wood County, 38 percent of the fatal crashes in 2016 involved unbelted drivers and passengers. That number dropped in 2017 to 33 percent. “We need to do better,” Wiechman said. She suggested that motorists make it automatic to buckle up…


Donations bring BG undocumented immigrant home – but 2 more arrested

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   On the same day that one Bowling Green man returned home on bond from ICE, another two local men were taken away. Few details are available about the two men picked up on Tuesday afternoon, other than they are being held in Seneca County Jail, which contracts as an immigration detention site in Tiffin. FBI Special Agent Vicki Anderson said Wednesday that while the FBI was involved in the search, the arrests were made by the customs and border patrol. No further information was available. The latest arrests come on the heels of a community fundraiser that helped bring home another Bowling Green man who has being held in a Battle Creek, Michigan, jail for undocumented immigration status. He had been turned over to Immigration and Customs Enforcement following a traffic violation in northern Wood County. More than 50 members of the community raised more than $3,000 during an ice cream social held Sunday at First Presbyterian Church in Bowling Green. That money was used to get a $5,000 bond for his release on Tuesday. According to Beatriz Maya, director of La Conexion, the man has worked as a skilled tradesman in the Bowling Green community for more than seven years and has no criminal history. “He is an asset for the community. We want him here,” Maya said. The man has a wife and three young children. The children are all U.S. citizens. The BG man had been held in Michigan for 25 days after being picked up for speeding north of Bowling Green, and being turned over to ICE. A hearing held on Monday found that he qualified to be released on bond. “They found he’s not a criminal of any sort,” Maya said. He has been in the U.S. for nearly 14 years, with half of that in Bowling Green, working locally. Maya brought him home from Battle Creek after bond was posted in Detroit. “He was very, very emotional,” she said, recalling his conversation on the trip home. “I didn’t know what was going to happen. I wasn’t sure if I was going to see my family again,” Maya said the man stated on the ride back to BG. He also remarked about the change in the trees since he was picked up, and pointed out the smoother roads once they crossed over from Michigan. “Ahhh, Ohio,” Maya…


Courthouse tour lays down the law for BG students

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   There was a bit of disorder in the courts  Monday as Bowling Green sixth graders got a close-up view of “Lady Justice.” They sat in on a court case, they offered ideas for new laws, and they met with the sheriff. And as a bonus, they learned a bit on how the county handles emergencies. The kids were awestruck by the court proceedings, and suitably impressed by the grand Wood County Courthouse. But kids being kids – they sometimes found a different focus than the intended. For example, as architect Heidi Reger pointed out the intricate stone work on the front of the 1896 courthouse, she asked the students to find the faces and animals carved into the stone. “They liked to tell a lot of stories in the stones,” she said. But during one group’s tour, Reger had some competition from above when one of the Peregrine falcons roosting in the courthouse clock tower snatched a bird for breakfast. It wasn’t long before a burst of feathers came floating down from the clock tower. Once inside the courthouse, the students got to listen to cases presented to the Sixth District Court of Appeals. The lesson there might have been that real court cases aren’t necessarily as exciting as those portrayed on television. But the students sat respectfully with little fidgeting as a case was argued about who was responsible for paying for roadwork and causeway maintenance for Johnson Island. Though the legal arguments were tedious, technical and long-winded, the students sat quietly. One court constable suggested that the sixth graders were likely intimidated by the panel of three robed judges, or by the ornate courtroom with its stained glass ceiling. After sitting through the governmental arm that rules on the law, the students heard from state legislators that make the laws. State Senator Randy Gardner and State Rep. Theresa Gavarone, both R-Bowling Green, talked about their routes to the statehouse. Gardner started out as a teacher, and Gavarone as an attorney and part-owner of Mr. Spots – which seemed to impress the students. Gardner stressed to the students that they are the bosses of state legislators. “If you live in Wood County, that means you’re our boss,” he said. “We listen to you.” Both talked about bills they sponsored that involved kids – such as legislation against bullying, requiring vision screening…