The boy is still being held at the juvenile center.
By JOHN W. GOODWIN JR.
VINDICATOR STAFF WRITER
YOUNGSTOWN -- Gerald Cole admits his grandson is no perfect child. The 16-year-old has been in trouble before and was caught riding in a stolen truck in Boardman in February.
Still, Cole said, the boy should not have been transported from Boardman Police Department to the Mahoning County Juvenile Justice Center in Youngstown without shoes.
"I am not going to try and portray my grandson as an angel, but there is a certain way people should be treated," he said. "From an ethical standpoint, this seems wrong to me."
About the situation
Cole is upset that his grandson's tennis shoes were held by police as evidence after he and three other teens were arrested in the township Feb. 18.
The boy was taken to the JJC with a plastic covering on his feet in place of the shoes. None of the other arrested teens' shoes were held.
At the time, the four boys abandoned a stolen vehicle on busy U.S. Route 224 that had run out of gas, police said. Officers responding to the scene chased the boys through a grocery store before apprehending them.
Boardman Capt. Jack Nichols said the shoes were kept as evidence because the arresting officer noticed the tread on the bottom of the shoes might have matched photographs of footprints left at other car theft sites in the township.
Police have said some of the teens may have been responsible for other car thefts.
Nichols said police keep the shoes of suspects about a half-dozen times a year, but the department does not stock disposable footwear or shoes that can be lent to those individuals.
The department does have a list of unclaimed items from past cases that will be auctioned off March 31, including several pairs of tennis shoes.
Rules on such items
Nichols said Ohio law has very strict rules as to how those items can be used or disposed of. He said the department cannot lend them out. They must either be auctioned or destroyed.
Nichols said the boy's feet would not have been exposed to outside weather for long because he would have been placed in a police car inside a closed garage attached to the police department and would have had only a short walk from the car into the JJC.
"It's definitely not like he would have been trudging through neighborhoods without any shoes on," he said.
Cole also said his family did not receive word of the boy's arrest until about seven hours after he was apprehended. He said a phone call should have been made to the family so they would not have been worried about the boy's whereabouts.
But Nichols said the holding room where the boys were placed has a phone that can be used at any time by those in police custody.
He added that arresting and processing four juveniles is a time-consuming process, and the families were contacted by police as soon as possible.