By John W. Goodwin Jr.
A city police officer has been fired for his role in a May incident involving a shotgun.
The officer’s wife, however, said the incident has been unfairly documented and that they will fight for his job.
Aaron Coleman, 49, a 21-year veteran of the police force, was terminated this week after an internal- affairs investigation. Coleman had been on paid administrative leave from the department for the last two weeks.
A letter notifying Coleman said the termination was because of Youngstown police rule and policy violations including: conduct unbecoming, incompetence, abuse of position, associations, processing property and evidence, and reporting law violations.
The termination stems from a May 25 incident during which Coleman was said to have accompanied an armed friend, Michael Baum, 41, of Burghill Avenue, to a South Side location to collect on the friend’s drug debt.
According to police reports, a 23-year-old East Indianola Avenue woman and her 25-year-old North Lima female friend were at an Indianola Avenue house when Baum came through an unlocked back door carrying a handgun.
The women told police Baum ordered them to the ground and demanded money, then used the gun to strike one of the women twice in the back of her head.
Baum, before leaving the house, threatened to return, shoot everyone inside and burn the building down, the women said.
According to police, Baum called one of the women’s boyfriends to settle the dispute. He then returned to the house shortly before 7 p.m., this time carrying a shotgun in his pickup truck and accompanied by his friend, Coleman, who was off duty.
Baum told police he brought the shotgun because he believed the woman’s boyfriend would be armed.
When Baum got to the house, he got out of the pickup truck with the shotgun, placed it on the truck’s hood and got into a fist fight with the woman’s boyfriend.
According to the police reports, Baum fell to the ground during the fight, and the boyfriend grabbed the shotgun and fired one shot into the air. Coleman then identified himself as a police officer and took the shotgun, placing it back in the truck, the boyfriend said.
Coleman broke up the fight, and Baum was arrested.
Baum has been indicted on aggravated-burglary charges and is awaiting trial.
Police Chief Jimmy Hughes said Baum tried to purchase drugs from the women but had his money taken. Hughes said Baum returned to the house to demand his money or the drugs.
“We don’t hire ourselves out as debt collectors, and we certainly don’t work as muscle for drug dealers or users,” said Hughes. “Our investigation shows he was a willing participant in this action with Baum to recover those funds or drugs.”
Joyce Coleman, Aaron Coleman’s wife, said her husband was not present when Baum first went to the house and was not aware that there was a shotgun in the car when Baum went to the house a second time. She said her husband got off work with a headache, ordered a pizza and then, at her urging, went with Baum to collect money owed for the purchase of tires.
“My husband was home wearing a pair of shorts, a T-shirt and a pair of flip-flops,” she said. “Michael [Baum] wrote in an affidavit that he never told Aaron there was a gun in the car when he came here.”
Coleman has a right to take the matter to arbitration, and his wife said that is definitely the plan because she wants to clear her husband’s name. She said the couple believes the termination is the result of retaliation for past incidents. She plans to speak about those incidents at a later date.
“I believe 100 percent that Aaron will get his job back and the truth will come out,” she said.