Prosecutor: Shooting by deputy was justified

By Tim Yovich

The deputy gave warnings before he fatally wounded a man, an investigation shows.

WARREN — The late 2007 shooting death of a 48-year-old Mecca Township man by a Trumbull County deputy sheriff was justified and does not require a grand jury inquiry, the county prosecutor says.

“It is a textbook example of justifiable homicide by a police officer responding to a call and doing his duty while at the same time risking his own safety and life to protect all of us,” Prosecutor Dennis Watkins said Thursday of the actions of Deputy Anthony Diehl.

Watkins’ opinion was reached in the Dec. 22, 2007, death of John W. McGrath after an investigation by him and the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Identification and Investigation.

The investigation does not differ from information released by Sheriff Thomas Altiere after the shooting, but does add details.

Here is what Watkins said the probe showed:

Diehl was patrolling Mecca at night when he was twice called to 6868 Hoagland-Blackstub Road. On both occasions, neighbors reported gunshots being fired. The first call turned out to be uneventful.

However, the second call about 1 a.m. “turned out to be eventful and tragic,” Watkins said.

When Diehl, who has been a deputy since 1997, arrived at the house, the lights had been turned off and at least two people were removing items from the residence. A neighbor told the deputy that shots were fired inside the house.

Diehl walked up the driveway with his flashlight turned on and saw a man coming out of the front door.

The man – McGrath, as it turned out – was carrying a black box toward a truck parked in front of the garage.

“Sheriff’s department! What are you doing?” Diehl yelled at McGrath, who threw the box into the bed of the truck.

Watkins said McGrath, in one quick motion, turned around, pulled a handgun and fired a shot at the deputy.

“What are you doing?” Diehl yelled again and fired a shot at McGrath, who fired a second time at Diehl.

The deputy fired a second time at McGrath. He was struck in the right armpit.

The neighbor who had called the second time corroborated Diehl’s account of the events. He could see because Diehl’s flashlight illuminated the area. Authorities recovered from the area where McGrath had fallen a 9mm semiautomatic pistol and two spent casings.

A woman, Dawn Holland, came out of the house and was handcuffed by Diehl.

The report said she appeared intoxicated.

McGrath’s toxicology report showed his blood-alcohol level was 0.23, or about three times more than the legal limit of 0.08, and he had various drugs, including cocaine, in his system.

Holland told investigators that her estranged husband, Christopher Holland, lived at the Hoagland-Blackstub house and she went there with McGrath to retrieve some of her personal items.

She said McGrath shot the door open to get inside and had twice shot up the inside of the residence that night.

“In this case, the officer had no reasonable opportunity to avoid the danger since McGrath open fired on the officer,” Watkins said.

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