17 July 2014

Mike DeWine's cover-up of a controversial police shooting.
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The Free Press previously reported on a standoff in Yellow Springs on July 31 of 2013 that lead to the death of a resident, Paul E. Schenck, at the hands of a police sniper. Attorney General Mike DeWine personally delivered a summary of the final report by the Bureau of Criminal Investigation (BCI) that lead to no findings of wrongdoing on the part of the officers involved. Laborious comparison of the police records from the 17 responding agencies to the BCI report and raw investigative materials paints a picture of belligerence, sloth, criminality and incompetence. Since the release of the report, one of the officers involved has been indicted on firearms charges in federal court for partially unrelated conduct.

The BCI reported that two officers, sharpshooter James Hughes and Major Eric Spicer, discharged their weapons at various times during the standoff. The BCI report lists Spicer as “returning fire” while a Montgomery County Sheriff's report alleges Greene County Sheriff's Major Spicer, who was to establish a command post, snatched a rifle he had recently failed to qualify with from Deputy Dave Wickal (department not listed in any report; assumed to be a Greene County Sheriff's Deputy) and fired at the wrong house. Major Spicer missed the house, which contained a cringing family including a small toddler, at a range of less than 50 feet.

Rather than establish a command post, Major Spicer attempted to enter at least three other homes during the incident while not responding to repeated radio calls from the now established command post. He broke the porch light on one home to gain concealment and cut through the screen window at another residence to unplug a lamp. He also directed the SWAT team to surround another incorrect address. These actions, which caused panicked 911 calls from unaware residents, lead those in the command post to believe that Schenck was mobile. Spicer then took it upon himself to call for helicopter support from the State Highway Patrol.

The belief that Schenck was mobile lead to a great escalation of the situation. Spicer later contaminated the crime scene by entering the Schenck's house without command authorization after the incident and used a false password to delete police records and reports immediately after the incident.

Spicer was immediately placed on suspension. The Greene County Sheriff's department wrote to the Montgomery County Sheriff requesting an investigation on August 4, 2013. The simultaneous investigation by the Montgomery County Sheriff's office was neither noted in the BCI report summary presented to the public personally by Mike DeWine, nor was any reference to the investigation made in internal emails within the BCI.

Spicer attempted to intervene in his own department's investigation after his suspension. Interview notes indicate that Spicer entered the room while detectives were questioning Deputy Hughes about the incident on October 4, 2013. Spicer attempted to direct the interviewers’ attention to the wrong house on a satellite photo map that was on the desk, indicating that house was Schenck's residence even after he was corrected. He attempted to elicit information about bullets recovered from houses in the area from investigators until he was interrupted by superiors and left. The investigators noted Spicer's behavior in their reports but this information did not find its way into the final BCI report.

Spicer attempted to gain employment with another police agency during his suspension. His background check indicated that he owned a military-style assault weapon on behalf of his department similar to the one that he had failed to qualify on. When his prospective employers contacted the Greene County Sheriff's department for a routine transfer of the weapon's paperwork, they discovered Greene County had no record of the weapon. The Federal Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco Firearms and Explosives was then contacted and an investigation was begun.

The investigation lead to seven felonies being filed against Spicer, including forging Greene County Sheriff Gene Fischer's name on the firearms application. Spicer's relationship with Fischer and Chief Deputy Mike Brown has been reported as acrimonious by confidential sources, but this appears to not have always been the case. Prior to his indictment, but during the course of the Free Press investigation into this matter, ip tracing indicates that Spicer apparently attempted to anonymously plant rumors via Facebook that Chief Deputy Brown was drunk in the command post the night of the incident and had a chronic alcohol problem.

The office of the United States Attorney, which filed the charges against Spicer, when contacted by the Free Press, was unaware of the previous relationship between Spicer and Fischer. Eric Spicer ran for State Representative against Jarrod Martin and Rick Perales in the Republican Primary in 2012. Martin was the incumbent in that seat which had previously been vacated by Kevin DeWine due to term limits. During this failed political campaign, Fischer was Spicer's campaign treasurer. The spokesperson for the US Attorney's office responded with "Wait, What?" when told this information. He then continued, "Perhaps one of the attorneys on the case is aware, but I personally was not told. I...I can't really say more about that."

The campaign also resulted in a defamation and civil conspiracy lawsuit filed by Spicer against Jarrod Martin and a John Doe. Spicer's first attorney withdrew from the case suddenly and the case was settled with mediation and a dismissal.

Montgomery County's investigation notes Spicer's highly erratic behavior during the incident in multiple interviews with responding officers. None of these interviews were noted in the BCI report summary presented by Mike DeWine to the public. There are multiple other discrepancies between the reports of responding agencies and the BCI, as well as with each other. One report lists a Yellow Springs officer on the scene as billing 8 hours for participating in the regional SWAT deployment. That Yellow Springs Officer was one of the initial responding officers on the scene long before a general call for assistance was made.

The BCI report quietly notes that early in the confrontation Schenck called 911 reporting that he had been attacked by his son. Emergency services hung up on Schenck. Later attempts to contact Schenck via his phone failed. From on scene recordings of the incident made by bystanders Schenck can be heard asking for a phone. Mike DeWine's public presentation of the report summary did note the initial 911 call for help came from Schenck and the situation escalated throughout the night until Schenck was fatally shot.

DeWine did praise the police for their mental health training, specifically citing Yellow Springs responding officers as being highly qualified, having completed crisis intervention training (CIT). The Yellow Springs News later reported that not a single one of the first responding Yellow Springs officers had completed CIT. Both Yellow Springs Police and BCI reports claim that two of the first responding officers had CIT. In reality only one had completed a condensed 16-hour version of the course during his previous employment with another department. The other two officers were given CIT afterwards.

There is considerable email traffic between the BCI investigators and Mike DeWine's Director of Public Affairs, Ann O'Donnell, concerning what statements DeWine could accurately make about the level of training. O'Donnell also concerns herself with the minutia of what can be said about Schenck being a “survivalist” and who that statement could be attributed to. It appears from reports that the word "survivalist" was first used by one of the responding Yellow Springs officers in communications with supervisors. This officer later attributed that statement to Schenck's family who denies speaking to him before the incident and the BCI was not able to directly attribute that statement to Schenck's family through direct interviews.

When presenting the BCI report summary to the public, DeWine took great pains to distance himself from the appearance of influencing its outcome or contents, despite the great volume of email traffic between O'Donnell and the investigators. The mainstream press failed to note the basic political connection between one of the key responding officers and DeWine's cousin's former state house seat, even after that officer was facing indictment and was fired.

There are other law enforcement jobs recently vacated in the Miami Valley. With the exception of the chief, most of the full-time police officers in Yellow Springs have resigned since the shooting. Those interviewed by phone refused to go on the record about their resignation or the incident. At least one has left the career of law enforcement entirely. Some spoke of being pushed out of the department.

DeWine took the time to personally praise the conduct of police in this case, including those in Yellow Springs. Yet in this case his office was working to smear the deceased, a 911 dispatcher hung up on a distressed domestic violence call, and his office appears to have covered up the erratic and dangerous behavior of a politically connected ranking officer. The family of the deceased still suffers and still has questions, and the public is still unaware of how much information was never acknowledged by the BCI.