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Chief, officer in Niles cleared



Published: Wed, January 5, 2005 @ 12:00 a.m.



The officers put their own lives in jeopardy, the prosecutor said.

WARREN -- Niles' police chief and another officer did nothing wrong in a July 2004 fatal shooting on Wood Street, an investigation involving state agencies has concluded.

Prosecutor Dennis Wat- kins said actions of Patrolman Christopher Mannella and Police Chief Bruce Simeone were "unquestionably justified."

This means that the matter won't be presented to a grand jury for further investigation or consideration.

Watkins said the two men responded quickly to a dangerous situation and "courageously put their own lives in jeopardy while fulfilling their duty to protect the public."

Deceased

Erica Mechling, 21, was slain July 21, 2004, in the area of 133 Wood. James Fambro, 43, of Warren, died as a result of a shooting with Niles police.

"The only thing I can say is that our hearts go out to the Mechling family. I guess I would say the same for the Fambro family," the police chief said Tuesday after being told of the investigation's finding.

"You wish, you know, that no one would ever have to go through something like this. ... you would hope that it would never happen again."

Simeone has been on the police for 33 years and chief since 1996.

Authorities believe Fambro shot and killed his former girlfriend just minutes before police arrived.

The subsequent investigation was made by the Trumbull County Homicide Squad including David Toepfer, an assistant prosecutor; Ohio Bureau of Criminal Identification and Investigation; and Ohio Attorney General's Office with special Agents Dennis DiRienzo and Edward Carlini.

Conclusion

They concluded Mannella was first to arrive and had cause to believe Fambro had committed the homicide. He saw Fambro standing by Mechling's body armed with an automatic pistol. Mannella ordered Fambro to drop the weapon, but he refused.

Mannella then saw Fambro charge toward Simeone and aim the weapon at the chief several times, attempting to pull the trigger. Testing by BCI showed "that the gun misfired and jammed."

Fambro ran toward the back yard of 133 Wood, ignoring officers' commands to stop.

Believing Fambro posed an immediate threat to officers and civilians, and having refused to surrender, Mannella fired his gun twice but was not responsible for the death.

Simeone, meanwhile, was second to arrive and saw and heard the same exchange. The chief fired his gun at Fambro three times; one bullet hit and caused his death, according to the investigative report.




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