New forensic dive team surfaces

By Marc Kovac


The water in one of the quarries a half-hour south of Columbus isn’t the crystal clear, see-to-the-bottom stuff vacationers seek for swimming.

It’s dark and cloudy; divers such as Stephen Schumaker call it black water.

“We won’t be able to see a thing,” he told reporters shortly before several members of the state Bureau of Criminal Identification and Investigation’s new forensic dive team took to the depths, in search of several guns scattered along the bottom for the occasion.

With a group of reporters watching from above the surface, the BCI divers moved along the bottom of one of the Circleville Twin Quarries, communicating with agents and using a sonar device to track the discarded weapons.

They didn’t have any luck on the first sweep but planned to continue training throughout the afternoon Monday.

“This will not be recreational diving,” Schumaker said. “This would be rather blind current-driven diving in many situations.”

Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine joined Schumaker, Ohio Environmental Protection Agency Director Scott Nally and Pickaway County Sheriff Dwight Radcliff Monday in unveiling the new forensic dive team, a group of eight BCI agents that will use sonar to hunt for guns and other evidence from criminal cases that have been thrown into rivers, ponds and lakes.

Divers will be at the disposal of law enforcement officials in all 88 counties, supplementing the crime scene work BCI already conducts across the state.

“We had a large number of cases where weapons disappeared into waterways,” said Schumaker, a former Clark County prosecutor.

“Criminals like to dispose of evidence in water. … They don’t believe that we’ll find it.”

Counties, like Pickaway, already have dive teams, but the new state group will be different in its focus, searching for evidence rather than participating in rescue operations or body recoveries.

The work will include documenting and processing evidence at shorelines or sending findings back to BCI labs for further testing.

The team also will work with Ohio EPA to investigate illegal underwater tire or barrel dumps, according to DeWine’s office.

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