Attorney General Dave Yost’s Police Resources
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Attorney General Dave Yost’s Police Resources

Attorney General Dave Yost firmly believes that law enforcement officers are essential to a secure and functioning society. Dedicated officers protect our communities as well as our individual ability to pursue life, liberty and happiness free from fear and intimidation.

“The true face of law enforcement is men and women going out and trying to make their communities safe,” Yost says. “They show valor every time they put a badge on their chest, which can turn into a target on their backs.”

Too often these days, though, the face of law enforcement is represented by viral videos of officers hurting people. These officers do not represent the majority – the many hard-working, goodhearted people who got into policing to safeguard neighbors and fix problems, not create them.

The following information is offered in support of and as a service to law enforcement officers across the state of Ohio.

Proposed Reforms

Since the death of George Floyd on May 25, 2020, in Minneapolis, there has been widespread recognition that the time has come to make reforms. Such actions would demonstrate to the public that officers can, should and do hold themselves to high standards and would empower departments by, for example, providing funding for training or instituting a way to remove bad actors. The following is a look at some of the ideas proposed in Ohio, including those that Attorney General Yost supports.

Backed by the AG

Smarter “No-Knock” Warrants

Ohio law recognizes both the castle doctrine and law enforcement’s use of so-called no-knock warrants. That combination sets up potential dangerous conflicts between officers and law-abiding gun owners who assume their home is being invaded by bad guys — not the good guys.

Still, a no-knock warrant is a valuable tool for law enforcement, for whom executing search warrants is particularly risky. (See Dayton Police Detective Jorge Del Rio’s story farther down on this page.)

“Executing a search warrant in cases involving drug dealers, human traffickers and other violent offenders is inherently dangerous for law enforcement — and inherently necessary,” Attorney General Yost said. “Officers should be properly equipped to make the safest entry possible, and a no-knock warrant, a waiver of the statutory ‘knock and announce’ requirements, can be the right tool to safeguard them.”

Amid talk of banning such warrants across the U.S., Yost and a bipartisan group of prosecutors from Ohio’s largest counties are urging the legislature and governor to raise the bar for obtaining no-knock warrants by:

  • Strengthening the threshold to there being a substantial risk of serious physical harm to officers.
  • Clarifying that “probable cause” and not “reasonable suspicion,” a lower standard, is required.
  • Barring no-knock warrants for misdemeanor drug possession or possession of drug paraphernalia.
  • Requiring officers to be clearly marked as authorities and turn on body cameras.

The prosecutors joining the attorney general to support the changes are Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Michael O’Malley, Franklin County Prosecutor Ron O’Brien and Hamilton County Prosecutor Joseph T. Deters.

Read more:

>> Their letter to the governor and legislative leaders
>> The press release announcing the proposals: AG Yost, Bipartisan Group of Prosecutors Propose a Plan to Preserve No-Knock Warrants
 

Other Policing Reforms

These measures were pitched by Attorney General Yost and Gov. Mike DeWine in June. Most would need to be passed by the General Assembly.

Oversight board

Purpose: To build accountability and prevent bad cops from simply moving to another agency

  • Would establish professional standards and a code of conduct for law enforcement
  • Would ensure that law enforcement officers adhere to the code or risk their license
  • Would prioritize fairness, due-process safeguards and transparency

Independent use-of-force investigations

Purpose: To build public trust in the results of investigations of officers

  • Would require that a neutral third party, such as the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation (BCI), investigate officer-involved critical incidents
  • Would mandate that outside prosecutors also be assigned to shootings and in-custody deaths

Chokehold ban

Purpose: To allow use of the potentially dangerous tactic only when an officer’s life is in danger

Advanced training

Purpose: To create a regular funding stream to pay for advanced training for LEOs

Basic-training psychological checks

Purpose: To help ensure that only those with appropriate temperament become officers

  • Would require basic training applicants to pass a psychological exam
  • Would require the Ohio Police Officer Training Commission, after a cadet graduates, to check references, etc. to ensure that the candidate possesses appropriate character before issuing a certification

Body cameras

Purpose: To make police body cameras more widespread

  • Would provide funding for equipment and video storage
  • By governor’s order, Ohio State Highway Patrol troopers will be outfitted with the cameras.

Read more:

>> The press release announcing these proposals: Governor DeWine, Attorney General Yost Announce Plans for Meaningful Law Enforcement Reform
>> On the Job newsletter story: “Policing today: The time to build, not tear down”
 

Be Heard by the AG

AG Yost created a “Be heard by the AG” Facebook page to solicit Ohioans’ experiences, suggestions and comments on what specific reforms would help build community-police trust. Many of those ideas fed into the reforms he has put forward.

Read more:

>> Press release: AG Yost Compiles Law Enforcement Reform Feedback for Better Transparency
>> The compilated suggestions: What the Public Is Saying
>> The press release announcing the forum: AG Yost Creates Online Forum to Share Ideas for Law Enforcement Reform

Legislative measures

Passed

The following measures have been approved by at least one body (the House or Senate) of the General Assembly. 

Senate Bill 16

Title: Instruct on proper interaction between driver and police
Main sponsor: Sandra Williams (D)
Status: Passed by the Senate 32-1
Description:  This bill would mandate that the Ohio Board of Education develop a curriculum to teach high schoolers what to expect when they are pulled over by police. Through instruction and role-playing, those lessons would include:

  • How to behave.
  • What the student's rights are.
  • Who counts as a peace officer.
  • What Ohio's laws say about traffic stops.  
The bill allows for districts to customize such lessons, in cooperation with local law enforcement, and clarifies what should be taught during instruction of peace officer cadets. That includes:
  • Proper interactions with civilians.
  • A person's rights during an interaction with a peace officer, including when a peace officer may require a person to exit a vehicle; Constitutional protections from illegal search and seizure; the rights of a passenger in a vehicle who has been pulled over for a traffic stop; and the right for a citizen to record an encounter with a peace officer.
  • Methods for diffusing a stressful encounter with a civilian.
  • Laws regarding questioning and detention by peace officers.
 

House Bill 17

Title: Enhance homestead exemption-spouse of killed safety officer
Main sponsor: Timothy Ginter (R)
Status: Passed by the House 92-0 (in 2019); passed by the Senate 33-0 (in 2020)
Desciption: The bill says:
  • Widows or widowers of police officers, firefighters, paramedics and other first responders killed while on the job, or who died from an injury or illness sustained on the job (including a heart attack)
  • May request a reduction in property taxes on one home property where they live (effectively cutting $50,000 off the value of the home that is taxed)
  • To apply for as many years as requested (until the surviving spouse's death)
  • As long as a supporting letter is included from the pension fund or lead officer of the department which the deceased spouse served
 

Senate Concurrent Resolution 16

Title: To call for justice for victims of excessive force by police and declare opposition to efforts to defund law enforcement
Main sponsor: Theresa Gavarone (R)
Status: Passed by the Senate 33-0
Description: This resolution affirms that the members of the 133rd General Assembly stand against efforts to defund police departments while also calling for justice for victims of excessive force. The resolution is a statement of beliefs and does not initiate any action or laws.
 

Proposed

The following measures have been introduced in at least one body (the House or Senate) of the General Assembly. 

Study, Implement Professional Police Practices Bill

Main sponsors: House Republican Reps. Cindy Abrams, Phil Plummer
Status: Introduced as HB703
Main proposals:

  • Standardize the disciplinary process and implement a new arbitration process
  • Establish BCI as the agency that investigates all police-involved shootings
  • Review police compensation and improve training
  • Establish a police certificate oversight board
  • Limit how long a prosecutor has to present a case to a grand jury
  • Streamline traffic laws
  • Require mandatory psychological testing for new recruits
  • Increase hiring of minorities by modernizing recruitment efforts
  • Study implementation of a more stringent continuing education program
  • Explore a statewide database of officers suspended for improper use of force, lying or moral turpitude
 

House Democrats’ measures

Main sponsors: Reps. Kristin Boggs, Erica Crawley, Sedrick Denson, David Leland, Joe Miller, Jessica Miranda, Michael Sheehy, Terrence Upchurch, Casey Weinstein and Thomas West
Status: Introduced as bill numbers below in parentheses
Main proposals:

  • “Demilitarize police” by prohibiting local departments’ access to a Department of Defense program that lets them acquire surplus military equipment (721)
  • Prohibit biased policing and profiling (710), arrest quotas (713) and the use of tear gas (707)
  • Require implicit-bias, de-escalation and mental health training every year (706)
  • Create databases to track excessive use of force (709) and officers’ employment history (712)
 

Senate measures

Main sponsors: Democratic Sen. Sandra Williams
Status: Introduced as SB337, 338, 366
Main proposals:

  • Establish a duty for the attorney general to investigate and prosecute officer-involved critical incidents (337)
  • Prohibit officers from engaging in biased policing and other status-based profiling and require the Ohio Attorney General's Office to establish rules regarding such practices (338)
  • Prohibit assault by a law enforcement officer (366)

AGO Divisions That Work With Police

Attorney General Yost’s office plays an important role in teaching and supporting law enforcement officers throughout the state.

Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation

Ohio Bureau of Criminal InvestigationThe state’s official crime lab, BCI serves the criminal justice community and offers expert criminal investigative services to local, state and federal law enforcement agencies. The bureau consists of three major divisions: Laboratory, Identification and Investigations.

>> Visit the website
>> Read the On the Job article: Local law enforcement officials say Ohio BCI 'makes us better'
>> Pamphlet
>> How BCI's new Cold Case Unit can help local departments: Visit the website

Ohio Organized Crime Investigations Commission

The commission assists local law enforcement agencies in combating pervasive organized crime — drug dealing and human trafficking, for example — through the creation of task forces composed of law enforcement officers and justice officials. The task forces receive wider jurisdiction and subpoena powers as well as operational help, funding and commission oversight.

>> Visit the website
>> Read the On the Job article: Low-profile state commission helps local police fight organized crime
>> Read: How Ohio Helps Local Police Fight Human Trafficking
>> Pamphlet
 

Ohio Peace Officer Training Academy

Ohio Peace Officer Training AcademyThe academy and the Ohio Peace Officer Training Commission oversee training and certification requirements for the 33,000 law officers in the state and private-security, corrections and humane agents. Staff members provide instruction in basic and advanced subjects and put on the annual Fallen Officers Memorial as well as the Law Enforcement Conference.

>> Visit the website

Recent Reforms at OPOTA

Three days before George Floyd died in Minneapolis, Attorney General Dave Yost moved to enact major reforms at OPOTA.

The COVID-19 pandemic had accelerated the timing: The training facility had come to rely on casino proceeds, and during that quarter, empty casinos meant a payment 13 times smaller than usual.

But Yost had started examining OPOTA’s costs and benefits even before the pandemic.

“When I was running for office, one of the things I heard was, ‘Hey, we legalized casinos, and we were supposed to get 2% of the money for training and where is it? Because we’re not seeing it,’” Yost said. “Well, we found out that money was going to fund state institutions.”

The attorney general also learned that many police agencies preferred training offered closer to home by private companies, community colleges or larger police departments. Such classes meant an officer didn’t have to travel all the way to London, Ohio, nor did it have to cover as many shifts.

In fact, attendance in some OPOTA classes had fallen to five people.

Large-scale changes made sense.

“What some people think is that when all of the changes happened, OPOTA permanently closed,” said Dwight Holcomb, OPOTA’s executive director. “That’s not the case at all.”

As physical classes reopen (after the break forced by COVID-19), Holcomb said, OPOTA will initially focus on a handful of areas:

  • Classes for teachers: Instructor-level courses will certify people, such as police departments’ training officers, to teach advanced training classes or at basic academies (which haven’t been directly taught by OPOTA for years).
  • Anything required by Ohio law: Such as the 40-hour course for new police chiefs.
  • Driving, traffic stops and related courses: OPOTA has the state’s only large-scale driving track for law enforcement, and the popular courses draw officers from across the state and nation.
  • Firearms: The two full-time instructors remaining on staff will teach such classes in London, but OPOTA also will partner with regional ranges and experts to set up classes throughout the state.

OPOTA next will determine which advanced training classes to provide. To help, the attorney general reached out to sheriffs and police chiefs, and the academy emailed more than 30,000 officers in July seeking their opinions.

Leaders also will tap policing data to see where training can benefit officers. They expect scenario-based training to factor into all of the answers, as such methods effectively help break down biases and build decision-making skills on use of force and de-escalation.
“Basically, we are identifying the classes that will be most valuable to front-line officers, and then we’ll go out and find the best people to teach them,” Yost said.

OPOTA’s two training coordinators are tasked with finding those high-quality partners, a priority both to make the training cost effective and so that experts in their fields can share the newest methodologies and most up-to-date real-world experience. For example, for the new police chiefs course, OPOTA is working with the Ohio Association of Chiefs of Police to bring in talented current chiefs to lead the classes.

Making courses and testing more convenient and accessible is another of OPOTA’s main priorities moving forward. That entails both developing classes physically closer to law enforcement agencies and revamping eOPOTA so that subjects that can be taught online are well-presented. OPOTA plans to have new coursework available by the end of the year.

“As always, our goal is to do a better job,” Yost said. “What we’re doing is making OPOTA more responsive, more local and more efficient, and that will help officers better serve their communities.”

>> Press release announcing the changes: Ohio Peace Officer Training Academy Revamps Business Model to Better Meet Officer Needs
>> Press release providing details on newly implemented changes: Redesign of Ohio Peace Officer Training Academy Focuses on Proven Techniques, Experienced Experts

Classes resume at OPOTA | Photos by Josh Grusendorf

Independent Investigations

Independence is a bedrock principle of fair investigations. When law enforcement agencies investigate their own — no matter how competent the investigation — the setup can create the appearance of an unfair process and jeopardize community trust in the outcome. The Attorney General’s Office offers investigators and prosecutors trusted for their high-quality work and independent decision-making.

BCI Critical Response Team

BCI Insights: Investigating Lethal Use of Force



BCI Insights Video Preview

This specialized team provides investigations of officer-involved critical incidents that are consistent, independent, professional and timely. After BCI receives a formal request for help, agents are deployed to the scene from whichever divisions make the most sense, potentially including the Special Investigations, Crime Scene, Cyber Crimes and Criminal Intelligence units. The team investigates more officer-involved critical incidents than any other law enforcement agency in the state and has a reputation for thoroughness and fairness.

Special Prosecutions Team

Upon the request of a local authority, AGO attorneys can serve as lead prosecutors in cases in which a conflict of interest exists. Also, local prosecutors can call upon those in the section to serve as assistant prosecutors in cases that require specialized knowledge or greater resources.

Fallen Officers

Since 1823, more than 800 Ohio law enforcement officers have lost their lives while on the job. Attorney General Yost honors them and highlights those who have made the ultimate sacrifice in recent years.

2020

Kaia Grant, Springdale Police Officer
Kaia Grant

Kaia Grant
Springdale Police Department
End of watch: March 21, 2020

Officer Grant, who served almost eight years with the Springdale police, died after a man wanted for aggravated burglary and threatening “suicide by cop” fled from officers who tried to pull him over. The chase started in Elmwood and proceeded on I-75, I-275 and into Springdale.

Officer Grant was laying down tire deflation devices when the chase reached her. The fleeing driver aimed his car at the officer and another of her colleagues, intentionally striking both as they ran for cover. The other officer survived; Officer Grant, 33, was pronounced dead on arrival after being airlifted to a nearby hospital.

The avid athlete, a graduate of the College of William and Mary in Virginia who studied economics and government, interned in the U.S. Senate and once considered a career in politics. Before becoming a police officer, she also worked with at-risk youths.

Officer Grant was known for having an ever-present smile.

“She was one of those people who you knew when you met her, this is somebody we need, this is somebody who is going to make a difference in our community,” said Col. Thomas Wells, according to the Greater Cincinnati Police Museum.

Officer Grant is survived by her parents, son and many other family members and friends.

Anthony Dia, Toledo Police Officer
Anthony Dia

Anthony Dia
Toledo Police Department
End of watch: July 4, 2020

Officer Dia became a police officer after his wife dared him to take the entrance exam for a community college’s police academy. He passed, graduated and fell in love with the profession, to the extent that two years in with the Mercy Health Police Department, he took a job with the Toledo Police Department, even though it meant repeating basic training at the larger agency’s own school.

Officer Dia had served two years with Toledo police when he responded to a late-night call to check on a drunken man who was harassing people for jumper cables at an informal car show in a Home Depot parking lot. Officer Dia expected to help the man.

Instead, when the officer called out to the man, he walked away, then turned and fired a shot into the officer’s chest. Colleagues rushed Officer Dia to the hospital, but the 26-year-old died soon after.

He is survived by his wife, who was his high-school sweetheart; two sons, ages 8 and 6; his parents; and many other family members and friends. The dedicated husband and father’s last words to a dispatcher were: “Tell my family I love them.”

James Skernivitz, Cleveland Police Detective
James M. Skernivitz

James M. Skernivitz
Cleveland Division of Police
End of watch: Sept. 3, 2020

On Wednesday, Sept. 2, Detective Skernivitz was sworn into the Northern Ohio Violent Crimes Task Force, joining the law enforcement team carrying out Operation Legend, a federal initiative to help U.S. cities facing a surge in violence.

The 53-year-old was ideally suited to the task force: He had 25 years with the Cleveland Division of Police, including undercover experience and a Gang Impact Unit assignment.

“He was what we call ‘a policemen’s policeman,’ ” Police Chief Calvin Williams said at a news conference. “He worked hard for the city he loved.”

At 10 p.m. the day after his swearing-in, Detective Skernivitz was sitting in an unmarked vehicle talking with an informant, Scott Dingess, a 50-year-old father of five. The detective was undercover.

Three people approached the car and opened fire, striking  Detective Skernivitz in the chest and hitting Dingess multiple times. Both died within an hour at a local hospital.

Whether the officer was directly targeted or the victim of a random robbery remains unclear.

Detective Skernivitz is survived by his wife, three children, mother and many other family members and friends.

In a tragedy that compounded the community’s grief the night that Detective Skernivitz was killed, Cleveland Officer Nicholas Sabo, a seven-year veteran of the department, took his own life a few hours later while off-duty. Officer Sabo, 39, was a married father of four and previously worked for the Columbus Division of Police.

Adam McMillan, Hamilton County Sheriff’s Corporal
Adam McMillan

Adam McMillan
Hamilton County Sheriff’s Office
End of watch: Oct. 23, 2020

Cpl. McMillan, a 19-year veteran of the Hamilton County Sheriff’s Office who was assigned to the Traffic Safety Division, was fatally injured on Oct. 8 in a five-vehicle crash in Anderson Township. The 42-year-old officer suffered a serious head injury and spent two weeks unconscious and in critical condition at the University of Cincinnati Medical Center before succumbing to his injuries. He was an organ donor.

“Adam McMillan is a hero,” Hamilton County Sheriff Jim Neil said. “He’ll continue to live in others.”

The chain-reaction crash occurred at the intersection of Eight Mile Road and Beechmont Avenue when Cpl. McMillan’s cruiser crashed into a Metro bus. Other drivers and vehicle occupants suffered no more than minor injuries.

Chief Deputy Mark Schoonover described Cpl. McMillan as dependable and “a really good guy,” and Deputy Jason Hovekamp said he had “a heart of gold” in a Go Fund Me request created after the traffic crash.

Cpl. McMillan was fourth-generation law enforcement.

“He loved being a deputy sheriff,” Neil said.

2019

Dale Woods, Colerain Township Police Officer
Dale J. Woods

Dale J. Woods
Colerain Township Police Department
End of watch: Jan. 7, 2019

When Dale Woods was a boy, he wanted to be a policeman and a firefighter. He grew up to be both, and more.

“ ‘To serve and protect’ was more than a motto to him,” Colerain Township Police Chaplain James Love said at Officer Woods’ funeral. “Let me count the ways in which he served: He served as a firefighter with Colerain, a fire investigator with North College Hill. He was a police officer with North College Hill; worked with dispatch; a police officer with Lincoln Heights; worked with animal control; a firearms instructor; and, as a Colerain police officer, he was part of the honor guard, bike patrol, quick response team, missing person team, SWAT team and a detective.…

“He only got jobs in which he was serving other people,” the chaplain said. “That’s all he ever chose.”

And the residents of the communities that Officer Woods served were grateful. Just a couple of hours before the father of three was fatally struck by a pickup truck, a man called to thank the officer for saving his baby the previous summer from a locked and sweltering car.

“When we hire police officers, we often say, ‘Bring me a good person, and I can turn him into a good cop,’” said Chief Mark Denney of the Colerain Police Department, where Officer Woods worked since 2003. “But every once in a while, you run into a natural police officer.

“You run into someone who was born with bravery, common sense, knowing how to talk to people with respect and how to handle stressful situations without having to be taught. Those are the ones who run into gunfire, into burning buildings and run through brick walls for people they’ve never met before.

“That was Dale Woods.”

The chief ’s description isn’t hyperbole. In September 2018, Officer Woods actually did run into a burning building to save a blind resident, who had assumed she would never escape. Officer Woods was honored with the Colerain Police Department’s Lifesaving Award for that act. His record includes multiple medals of valor, letters of commendation and awards of appreciation.

He was the kind of officer who saved lives.

“He was also the kind of man,” Chief Denney said, “who would place brand new police officers in his car and make them listen to the most God-awful music ever created as he trained them to be cops.”

Music was more than an amusing torture device for Officer Woods, who was a drummer. He played with two drum and bugle corps, Cincinnati Tradition and Limited Edition; at John Wesley United Methodist Church; and with the bands at Colerain middle and high schools.

In his spare time, Officer Woods ran an auto-detailing business, Details by Dale, and enjoyed bodybuilding and golf. He was reportedly so good at the latter that he was regarded as a “professional” at Cincinnati’s Clovernook Country Club, where he was a member.

“To say Dale just enjoyed golf is an understatement,” Chaplain Love said.

Yet the officer wasn’t one to brag about his skills or feats, or those of his children — Trinity, Hallie and Collin — of whom he was especially proud.

“I had the privilege of knowing Dale for 32 years,” Chief Denney said at Officer Woods’ funeral. “In the first two or three years, we ran in different circles and weren’t what I would consider friends. He said maybe 10 or 15 words to me.

“But then I look back, and the remaining 29 years, I’m not sure he said much more than that,” Chief Denney continued. “But you never doubted his friendship. He had a remarkable ability for gaining friendships and earning respect without saying very much.”

On Jan. 4, 2019, Officer Woods was quietly going about his job on a rainy night. He was placing cones on Colerain Avenue to direct traffic around an accident scene when a passing pickup struck him.

The 46-year-old officer was rushed to the University of Cincinnati Medical Center, where he died three days later. He was an organ donor, who in death saved a few more Cincinnati-area residents, according to the LifeCenter Organ Donor Network.

Officer Woods was survived by his children, Trinity, 22, Hallie, 19, and Collin, 15; his mother, Ann Woods (Rex Corn); girlfriend, Beckie Saylor; sister, Dori Marcotte; and many friends, other family members and fellow first responders.

“Dale lived a short life,” said Colerain Township Trustee Raj Rajagopol, a former deputy sheriff and friend of Officer Woods’. “But all the life he lived was for others, sacrificing.”

Bill Brewer, Clermont County Deputy Sheriff
Bill Brewer

William L. Brewer Jr.
Clermont County Sheriff’s Office
End of watch: Feb. 2, 2019

Detective Bill Brewer loved his wife, loved his 8-year-old son and loved that his job centered on protecting people.

“He actually — it sounds cliché — but he truly enjoyed helping people,” said Detective Adam Bailey, who had been friends with Detective Brewer since both were seventh-graders. “He was just a normal guy trying to make a difference in society.”

Detective Brewer had been trying to make a difference since joining the Clermont County Sheriff ’s Office as a corrections officer in 1998. He became a deputy in 2006 and, in 2015, joined the Special Response Team, the office’s SWAT team. He saw that role as another way to be of assistance, to other officers and to people on perhaps the worst day of their lives.

“This would be the guy I would want to show up if my family members were in need,” Sheriff Steve Leahy said at the detective’s funeral.

Through the years, Detective Brewer was commended for actions such as finding a child lost in Stonelick State Park and catching a knife-wielding man who was chasing the daughter of a local police chief.

“Bill could always be counted on to do the right thing,” Sheriff Leahy said. “Knowing he was around just made me feel better.”

The detective’s personnel file was packed with thank-you notes from residents he’d helped, including an elderly man whose car was egged on a freezing-cold night. Brewer and his partner not only took a police report but also cleaned the man’s car.

“He was a huge team player, and he thought that everybody else should be a team player, too,” Detective Bailey said.

The cooperative attitude likely stemmed from Detective Brewer’s starring roles on his high school sports teams. At Williamsburg High School, the quarterback made the First Team All-District in 1993, 1994 and 1995 and broke school records for touchdown passes in a season (54) and passing yards in a season (2,046). He played four years of varsity basketball and, in baseball, made the All League team in 1994.

“Even though he had all kinds of sports accolades and records, he was humble,” said Detective Bailey, who played football with Brewer. “He didn’t flaunt it or act like he was better than anyone else.”

After high school, Brewer went on to play a year of football at Cumberland University in Kentucky before transferring to the University of Cincinnati and earning an associate degree. But when he became a father, he didn’t force his passion on his son.

“Braxton wasn’t big into playing sports, so that didn’t occupy their time,” Detective Bailey said.
“Bill and his family used their time to go out and make memories in different places – Gatlinburg, Disney World, state parks, water parks, museums. They were big on just creating experiences and making memories.”

Detective Brewer and his son collected Hot Wheels, and the whole family – including Brewer’s wife and Braxton’s mother, Jamie – had wide-ranging music tastes, with R&B and rap being their favorites. The detective liked any food he could put ketchup on and had a penchant for using the word “reference.” For example, Bailey recalled: “Reference yesterday’s conversation.”

As a stay-at-home mom, Jamie Brewer was there to capture the family adventures.
“She took thousands and thousands of pictures of them,” Detective Bailey said. “Their walls are covered, and that is so nice going to their house and seeing those pictures of all of them together.

“It was like God told her – you know, whispered to her: ‘Hey, Bill might not be around forever, so take as many pictures as you can.’ And she did.”

Their photos became all the more poignant after Detective Brewer, 42, was killed in an ambush.

On Feb. 2, 2019, a young man called 911 twice, first with a fake robbery report and then to say he was suicidal. The man fired his gun when deputies arrived at his apartment, prompting the SRT, including Detective Brewer, to respond.

When the man faked shooting himself, Detective Brewer and Lt. Nick DeRose entered the apartment, intending to give aid. That’s when the man shot through a wall, killing the detective and wounding the lieutenant (who has recovered and returned to work).

The shooter was sentenced to life in prison with no chance of parole.
Detective Brewer left behind Jamie Hensley Brewer, his wife of 13 years, and their son, Braxton; his parents, William Sr. and Angie Brewer; his brother, Michael Brewer; his parents-in-law, James and Mary Noll; several nieces and nephews; and his brothers and sisters in blue.

Jorge Del Rio, Dayton Police Detective
Jorge R. Del Rio

Jorge R. Del Rio
Dayton Police Department
End of watch: Nov. 7, 2019

At a career point when many officers have retired or are getting ready to, 55-year-old Detective Jorge Del Rio was working undercover and leading the charge while executing search warrants.

When he was fatally shot by drug suspects, the married father of five had been with Dayton police for almost 30 years, including 19 years assigned to a Drug Enforcement Administration task force. In that role, the detective had the same powers as a DEA agent, working undercover not only in his home city but throughout the United States.

As some of his colleagues put it: He was a true shadow warrior.

“He never shied away from difficult challenges or dangerous situations, serving on the front lines of our fight for justice and for our country,” Special Agent in Charge Keith Martin, who leads the region’s DEA teams, said at the detective’s funeral.

The undercover work of Detective Del Rio – a native of Mexico City raised by a single mom in East Chicago, Indiana – was so skilled, it was said to be unfair to bad guys, said Special Agent Steven Miller, who leads the DEA office in Dayton.

“In reality, the opposite was true as he had an uncommonly strong sense of justice and fairness,” Miller said at the funeral, illustrating his point with a story about a sting in which Detective Del Rio posed as a drug supplier (with simplified drug amounts).

“To ensure it was fair, Jorge and the case manager decided beforehand that Jorge would say (to the drug dealers), ‘Look, if you can only sell 1 kilogram, then take 1 kilogram. But if you can take 2 and that’s normal for you, then take 2,’” Miller said.

“This was an important gesture because the difference between taking 1 and 2 kilograms would effectively double the jail time for the suspect. Jorge explained that ‘Just because you can do something, doesn’t mean that it’s the right thing to do. The badge is only as good as the man or woman standing behind it.’”

During his career, Detective Del Rio was commended for acts that included saving a drowning 14-year-old who had driven into the Great Miami River; helping to arrest the man who shot and wounded Officer Timothy Reboulet in 1995; preventing the murder-for-hire of two people through a reverse sale of a firearm, a silencer and explosives; and recovering 7 kilos of cocaine, half a kilo of heroin and $200,000 in cash in a single case.

A poster that Del Rio kept on an office wall said, “Courage: Being scared to death but saddling up anyway.”

“He left a legacy of service and sacrifice to this noble profession that is rare even among the best of us,” Dayton Police Chief Richard Biehl said.

The detective was also funny, warmhearted and dedicated to his family.

“When he was not at work, he was with his family,” Chief Biehl said. “When he was at work, he spoke fondly about his family.”

He met his wife, Kathy, in 1986, when both worked at an Elder-Beerman’s department store. They went on to have five daughters: Ariel, Ericka, Veronica, Naya and Dana. Colleagues referred to the detective and his girls as Del Rio and the Del Rio-ettes. He used to proudly recount their achievements, including how they excelled when their father, a firearms enthusiast, taught them to shoot.

Friends said Detective Del Rio had an infectious laugh, incredible luck finding good parking spots and a love for sharing meals — or, as he liked to say, “breaking bread like a gentleman.” There was no fast food, no hurrying, no eating in the car.

On Nov. 7, 2019, Detective Del Rio died at Grandview Hospital, three days after being shot twice. He had been serving a search warrant at a Dayton residence and leading a group of officers down a stairway into a basement.

He left behind a wealth of admiring colleagues and friends as well as his family: his wife, Kathy, who is blind; daughters Ariel Del Rio Busch (Steven), Erica Hampton (Devin), Veronica Del Rio and Naya Del Rio; and granddaughters Aliyah Shafeek, Luna Hampton and Santana Busch. He was preceded in death by his mother, Beatriz Hernandez, and daughter Dana Shafeek.

Three men have been indicted on charges that carry the death penalty in Detective Del Rio’s death. As a result of the search warrant, officers seized 10 kilograms of fentanyl, more than 50 pounds of marijuana and $51,000 in cash.

2018

Eric Joering, Westerville Police Officer
Eric J. Joering

Eric J. Joering
Westerville Division of Police
End of watch: Feb. 10, 2018

“Selfless” would be one way to describe Police Officer Eric J. Joering, said Guy Cerino, his good friend and fellow officer at the Westerville Division of Police. “Generous” would be another.

“It’s hard to try to say one thing about him or describe him in one word,” Cerino said. “To find that word — I can’t. It’s many.”

Joering was a guy who would bring in the best cuts of the deer he’d hunted to share with co-workers for dinner at the station. And a guy who drove 40 miles in the middle of the night to comfort Cerino after Cerino’s young son died of cancer.

“At work, if you came in and had a question, or you were working on a case and you needed his help, he always dropped what he was doing for you,” Cerino said.

He recalled one time in particular, when he himself was investigating a hit-skip suspect and Joering was a detective focused on crimes involving juveniles. Joering put aside his heavy workload, Cerino said, to help him decipher what a thick packet of cell-tower data showed about the suspect.

“Eric would give you the shirt off his back if you needed it; if you needed money, he’d give you money,” said Cerino, who was hired in 2001, the same year that Joering was. “And that was the kind of person he was.”

During his years at the division, Joering received dozens of commendations, including seven Exceptional Duty awards. One of the most notable came after he helped the FBI and police departments on both coasts recover $3 million worth of jewelry stolen from a vendor passing through Westerville.

Sgt. Tony Rudd, who supervised Joering in the detective bureau, called him an expert in police tactics and weapons. He helped Rudd choose a rifle and navigate the complicated, seven-month process of obtaining federal approval to carry it at work.

Joering also served as a training officer, a firearms trainer and a street cop. After his stint as a detective, he became a K9 officer partnered with a Belgian Malinois named Sam.

Working with police dogs was Joering’s dream job, former Westerville Police Chief Joe Morbitzer has said.

Joering, who lived with his family outside Centerburg, also loved hunting, four-wheeling, scuba diving and being outdoors. He and his wife, Jami, enjoyed spending time on their boat and going on double dates with Cerino and his wife. The Joerings’ three young daughters — Eva, Elena and Ella — can be called proud daddy’s girls.

“They’re at that age where doing anything with Dad intrigued them,” Cerino said. “So if Dad’s hunting, they were like, ‘I want to go hunting with Dad. I want to spend time with Dad.’”

In a thank-you video to the Westerville community in 2018, Jami described how Sam and the girls would pile onto Joering when he sat in his recliner in the evenings. The chair, she said, is still the favorite place to curl up for Sam, who has lived with the family since the Westerville Police Division retired him after Joering’s death.

“There’s nothing better than those three girls getting to be with that dog,” said Morbitzer, now superintendent of the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation.

On Feb. 10, Joering and Police Officer Anthony P. Morelli were dispatched to a home on a domestic-violence call. After they were let in, a man opened fire. Both officers were hit and fired at the shooter, wounding him. Joering, 39, died at the scene.

Franklin County is seeking the death penalty for the shooter, who, as a felon, shouldn’t have had a gun.

Joering is survived by his wife and three daughters; his mother-in-law, Terri Seligman; his parents, Jim and Lillian Joering; his brother, Michael (Jen); his police family; and many friends.

Cerino attributes one of the best experiences he had with his son, Jaret, to the Joering family.

He had gone to the Joerings’ home to do something — maybe help refinish the basement or chop wood, he couldn’t recall — and the Joerings decided late in the afternoon to invite the rest of Cerino’s family to come from their Grove City home for dinner.

Cerino’s son, Jaret — about 3 years old at the time and battling cancer — begged for a ride on Officer Joering’s four-wheeler. “I wasn’t going to say no,” Cerino said. “And Eric wasn’t going to say no.”

Cerino put Jaret in front of him and would press the throttle to make it get up and go, and let off, and press the throttle and let off. Jaret couldn’t get enough.

“At that moment in time, our son had no cares in the world,” Cerino said. “I’ll never forget that day, because of Eric, and I still thank him for it. … He was very generous.”

Tony Morelli, Westerville Police Officer
Anthony P. Morelli

Anthony P. Morelli
Westerville Division of Police
End of watch: Feb. 10, 2018

The countdown to retirement was underway for Officer Anthony “Tony” Pasquale Morelli and four of his fellow officers at the Westerville Division of Police.

The five had started on the same day in 1988. They’d gone through the State Highway Patrol Academy together. They’d vacationed together. They’d joked that their kids would grow up to marry each other. And they’d all signed on to the deferred retirement program.

Using an app on his cellphone, Sgt. Tony Rudd was counting off the days, hours and even the seconds until April 27, 2021.

“The ‘Fab Five’ were all going to go out and have one giant party,” Rudd said.

Then Feb. 10 happened.

“I remember looking at that app, and it made me sick,” Rudd said. “So I deleted it for good.

“It took tragedy,” he continued, “to wake me up to the fact that — you know what? — tomorrow’s not guaranteed. We all need to make the most of every day.”

By all accounts, Officer Morelli always did.

“Since 1988, any story that I have told — the best times that I’ve had as an adult — inevitably Tony Morelli is part of that story,” said retired Training Officer Dave King, who started a month before the Fab Five and was close friends with them.

Morelli, a father of two, loved his family; the Massillon Tigers (and sharing how he’d played football there with OSU star Chris Spielman); baseball (his team was the Boston Red Sox); AC/DC (he’d play air guitar to “You Shook Me All Night Long”); and working out.

He joined charity runs and races such as the Warrior Dash with his daughter, Beth; wife, Linda; and anyone else he could coax into joining him. He enjoyed golfing with his son, Chris.

“My favorite memories are tailgating with Tony at Ohio State football games,” said Officer Jeff Dixon. “That was his favorite place to be in the world early on a Saturday morning.

“He would always welcome anybody who wanted to come. They always had the food and the drinks and just wanted you to show up. Wouldn’t take a penny from anybody.”

Dixon got to know Morelli when they worked first shift together, after Morelli’s kids grew up and he started volunteering to work on Christmas. That meant Dixon and other officers got to spend the holiday with their young children.

Morelli also worked special duty at the Westerville Library, taught self-defense classes for women, and spent a few years as a school resource officer. He was well-liked in Westerville, where he also lived.

In his 30 years with the police division, he was voted officer of the year in 2003 and 2012, was honored with a Medal of Valor and received many other awards.

One resident wrote to thank Morelli for saving 10 baby ducks from a sewer. Another wouldn’t have sent a thank-you: The 80-year-old woman got annoyed when, after a well-being check, Morelli bought her groceries because she didn’t have any food. She gave him a hard time for picking out sliced turkey.

Colleagues enjoyed working with Morelli, and not just for the fun.

“Especially when we were young, everybody wanted to catch the bad guy,” King said. “So if there was a robbery, no one wanted to go to the scene and catch the paper on it, because that’s not fun. But Tony would always step up and do the right thing” and take on the less exciting parts of the job, such as writing the report.

King recounted how Morelli memorized every Westerville street, even ones in odd corners, when they were new to the job.

“He never wanted to be the guy who didn’t know the answer.”

Morelli’s friends said he could be critical of his bosses’ decisions.

“I can’t tell you how many arguments we got into at roll calls, and I had to clear the room because he and I were going at it,” Rudd said. “Then we’d hang out together. It was like having a brother.”

Three days after Morelli’s 54th birthday, on Feb. 10, he and K9 Officer Eric Joering were dispatched to a home where a gunman ambushed them. Both officers were hit and fired back, wounding the shooter.

Morelli died at Ohio State University’s Wexner Medical Center.

“Tony was the second guy through the doorway that day, and he probably could have retreated out of there,” Rudd said. “But there’s no way — that’s not Tony.”

Morelli is survived by Linda, his wife of almost 29 years; Elizabeth, his daughter, who married Danny Frank in June 2018; Christopher, his son; his parents, Anthony and Carolyn Morelli; brothers David (Ramneet) and Michael; nieces and nephews Sukhjit, Jasjit, Simi and Lucas; and friends in Westerville and Massillon.

“He was full of life, and every day was something special to him,” Rudd said. “The thing is, you don’t realize how much you’ve lost until he’s gone.”

Mat Mazany, Mentor Police Officer
Mathew J. Mazany

Mathew J. Mazany
Mentor Police Department
End of watch: June 24, 2018

Patrolman Mathew “Mat” Mazany was a throwback kind of cop.

He didn’t believe in writing long, extravagant police reports, or in being politically correct every second of his shift. He’d tell you how it was, and then he’d move on.

“When I say Mat was an old-school cop, I don’t call into question his ability or knowledge to do the job,” retired Mentor Police Sgt. Scott Tkach, who supervised Mazany for six years, said at his funeral.

“He knew what he was doing, and he did it well. He just did it a little bit different from most of us.”

Police work was in Mazany’s genes. His father was a police officer for 50 years in the Army and, later, in Maple Heights. From a young age, Mazany knew he wanted to follow in his dad’s footsteps.

“If you knew Mat, Mat would never fight for himself when we were in school,” his best friend, Jamie Bassell, said at the funeral. “But if someone else was getting in trouble or someone else was getting bullied, Mat was the first one to step in. That’s the kind of person he was.”

The Mentor resident could also be charming, and his sense of humor cracked up friends and family members.

He was a devoted family man described by his son, also named Mat, as a nerd of sorts.

“Star Wars, Marvel, Transformers, ‘Metal Gear’ — he loved it all,” his son, 20 at the time, said at his father’s funeral.

The two were known to discuss the politics of the Clone Wars from Star Wars, and Officer Mazany’s ringtone played the introduction to the video game “Metal Gear Solid.”

Of course, it’s easy to see that a big portion of Officer Mazany’s attraction to these “nerd” games and movies was spending time with his son.

The elder Mazany also loved cigars, sports cars, his motorcycle and his wife of 22 years, Lisa. And he loved being a cop and working with his fellow officers in the Cleveland suburb of Mentor.

In his 14 years with the department, Mazany worked 12-hour midnight shifts. He was honored with the department’s Exceptional Service Award, and Mentor residents had written the department about his professionalism and compassion.

“Mentor was a safer place and the Mentor PD was a better police department because of Mat,” Tkach said.

Early on June 24, 2018, a Mentor police officer had pulled over a person wanted in another jurisdiction, and Officer Mazany, 41, arrived to assist. As he began to approach the vehicle, a Jeep struck him and drove off.

He was rushed to a nearby hospital but didn’t survive.

The driver of the Jeep was located a few hours later. The man — who, tests showed, had alcohol, heroin and fentanyl in his system — was charged with second-degree aggravated vehicular homicide, among other counts.

Besides his wife and son, Mazany is survived by his father, Michael S. Mazany; siblings, Michael J. Mazany (Danica) and Cindy Bradshaw; nephew, Alexander Devine; niece, Ashley Derda; friends; and his brothers in blue.

“His love was truly unconditional,” Bassell said. “It really pains me that Mat won’t be able to watch his son grow into a man. He’ll never have that drink with him for his 21st birthday.”

Vu Nguyen, Cleveland Police Officer
Vu X. Nguyen

Vu X. Nguyen
Cleveland Division of Police
End of watch: July 6, 2018

To understand what kind of man Police Officer Vu Nguyen was, consider this story, which doesn’t even center on him:

The Cleveland Police Athletic League throws an annual Christmas party to treat thousands of children to games, gifts and lunch. Nguyen had volunteered every year, so, for the organizers, the gathering on Dec. 1, 2018 — the first without him — took on a somber note.

But it didn’t go off without a Nguyen.

The officer’s 15-year-old daughter, Kayla, a high-school sophomore, got up early on that Saturday and spent eight hours straight helping children pick out gifts in the toy tent.

“Not one complaint,” said Cleveland Police Sgt. Jennifer Ciaccia, who went through the police academy with Officer Nguyen and lives next door to the family. “Kayla’s a lot like her dad in that respect. She likes to be able to make somebody smile.”

Nguyen’s mission in life was to make others smile, especially his wife, Holli, and their two daughters — Maya is seven years younger than Kayla. The girls soaked up his selflessness and his positive outlook.

“Literally all he wanted was for his family to be happy,” Ciaccia said. “But he also somehow managed to touch so many people’s lives and make a difference by being himself and being present and engaged.”

The Avon resident spent 20 years working the streets for the Cleveland Police Department. He was a popular officer, with commendations in his file including a Medal of Heroism and a special thanks from the FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force.

Nguyen took police tactics seriously, just as he did the people he protected.

Detective Aaron Reese, Nguyen’s partner for more than six years, said he was the kind of officer who, if he was called to a single mom’s home and found the refrigerator low on food, would go buy the family groceries using his own money.

In fact, the Nguyen family dog was a rescue Nguyen had found — sick and abandoned in an empty house — while on patrol.

With animals and people alike, Nguyen shared his big heart.

“It’s funny, because he made me take the sergeant’s exam,” Reese recalled. “I really had no desire to take the test, but he made me sign up for the prep course. … I took it, and here I am very close to getting promoted — and it’s all because of him. He was always looking out for me.”

Nguyen was known around his neighborhood for passing out popsicles and organizing games involving 20 or so children at the local pool.

“He was like a dad to everybody’s kids,” Ciaccia said.

The officer also loved to eat and loved to take his family on vacations.

Nguyen was one of 14 brothers and sisters who have spread throughout the country, providing excellent vacation opportunities. The family emigrated from Vietnam to the Cleveland suburb of Lakewood in 1975, when Vu was 5 years old. His family called him the fun sibling, and the strong one.

Which is why, in part, his death at age 50 came as such a shock.

On July 2, 2018, Nguyen collapsed in 90-degree heat during a canine-officer training exercise. In large part due to the exertion, he ended up suffering organ failure; he was put on life support and died four days later, on July 6, at Cleveland Clinic.

Nguyen is survived by Holli, to whom he was married for almost 18 years; daughters Kayla and Maya; siblings Tam (Ken), Phuong (Trung), Van (Linh), Hang (Larry), Hai (Terri), Son (Nancy), Nga (Thuy), Phong (My-Lan), Huyen, Lan (Le), Mai (John), Truc (Sulaiman) and Thao (Kekoa); and more than 30 nieces and nephews. He was preceded in death by a young son, Devin Vu Nguyen, and his mother and father, a former police chief in Saigon.

“I would hope people just remember Vu as the guy who would give anything for anybody,” Ciaccia said. “He was completely selfless.”

Note: 2018 and 2019 officers’ stories come from Fallen Officer Memorial Ceremony programs. 2020 officers’ stories are preliminary versions and will be expanded for the 2021 ceremony.

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