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YOUNGSTOWN Champion teacher faces drug charges



Published: Fri, August 3, 2001 @ 12:00 a.m.



The middle school teacher had been warned earlier to stay away from the North Side housing complex where he was arrested.

By PATRICIA MEADE

VINDICATOR CRIME REPORTER

YOUNGSTOWN -- After what police described as a wild struggle to resist arrest, Champion teacher Peter A. Polando told the officers of his crack problem and begged to be let go.

Polando, 47, of Noel Drive on the city's West Side, is charged with possession of drug paraphernalia (a glass crack pipe), resisting arrest and criminal trespass, all misdemeanors.

Police arrested him about 9:30 p.m. Wednesday outside Apt. 168 on Griffith Street in the Westlake Terrace Homes apartment complex.

At arraignment Thursday in municipal court, Judge Robert P. Milich placed Polando on electronically monitored house arrest as a bond condition. Polando has a pretrial hearing set for Aug. 23 in Judge Robert A. Douglas Jr.'s court.

"It really took me by surprise," said Pam Hood, Champion schools superintendent. "Surprise is the best word I can use."

Polando has been a middle school science teacher for five years and received satisfactory evaluations, she said.

Undisclosed problem: Hood said Polando taught fifth grade up until last year, when he taught seventh grade. She was not aware of any drug problem.

The superintendent added she would reserve further comment until she and the board's attorney have all the facts.

Patrolmen James Welch, John Prest and Ronald Barber, assigned to the Youngstown Metropolitan Housing Authority, which oversees Westlake, noted in their report that they had issued Polando a warning June 26 to stay off YMHA property.

In an effort to prevent drug sales, police closely monitor visitors to the apartment complex.

When the officers spotted Polando outside the apartment, he tried to elude them by entering it, reports show. The apartment's occupant had been arrested about two hours earlier.

As the officers approached Polando, he started to scream "No!" and pulled away, flailing his arms. He reached into pants pocket and police wrestled him to ground.

Arrest scene: The report shows that the officers, in trying to get Polando -- 6 feet 2 inches and 240 pounds -- to comply, struck his shoulders and arms. After handcuffing the teacher, police found the glass pipe in his pants pocket.

The report quotes what Polando said once handcuffed: "I can't go to jail. I'm a schoolteacher," he said as he dropped to the ground and rolled around. "I have a crack problem. If you let me go, I'll never come back. If I go to jail I'll lose my job. ... Help, mommy."

Hood said Polando's mother died last year.

Polando then complained of chest pains and an ambulance was summoned. After being examined, he was booked into the Mahoning County Jail.

Police called Dave Nelson, Animal Charity humane investigator, who took two small dogs from Polando's 1996 Oldsmobile.

meade@vindy.com




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