By Ed Runyan
Police Chief Eric Merkel fired Patrolman Reuben Shaw on Thursday for having a 1969 Chevrolet Nova towed from a locked garage on Kenwood Avenue to a garage Shaw controls nearby.
In a letter dated Thursday, the chief said Shaw is terminated immediately. Shaw, a 24-year veteran of the department, did not attend a predisciplinary hearing scheduled for Tuesday. An attempt to reach Shaw to comment was unsuccessful.
Shaw has been on paid administrative leave since July, when the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation began an investigation into the matter.
BCI turned over its investigation to Trumbull County Prosecutor Dennis Watkins in early March, but no charges have been announced.
In an April 18 letter, Merkel administratively charged Shaw with six violations of Warren Police Department policies and procedures and suggested that Shaw had broken the law by his actions.
Shaw’s termination letter says Shaw and other officers noticed the car in the garage at 2320 Kenwood on June 30, 2013, while investigating for potential trespassers.
“You immediately noticed the Chevrolet Nova and discussed with other officers your desire to have such a vehicle to restore it,” Merkel said.
“Later that same day, while still on duty in your police uniform, you returned to 2320 Kenwood Avenue with another male [not a fellow police officer] and entered the locked, detached garage. After gaining access to the garage, you contacted May’s Towing to remove the vehicle from the property,” Merkel said.
Shaw had the vehicle towed for $50 to a private garage on Palmyra Road.
A day later, Merkel said he learned of the incident and talked with Shaw about it, telling the officer to have the vehicle towed to the May’s lot and to complete a tow slip.
“You stated that you believed that the owners of the property and vehicle were deceased and that you collect classic cars. You advised of your intentions to keep and restore the vehicle,” Merkel said.
“You towed the vehicle as I ordered; however, on the official tow slip, you falsely indicated that the vehicle was towed from Kenwood directly to Mays,” Merkel said.
“You did not have permission or authority, after the initial call for service, to be on the premises or enter the locked garage. You did not have title to the vehicle or permission from the owners to seize the vehicle and did not follow proper protocol for towing abandoned vehicles,” he said.
In Merkel’s April 18 letter, he wrote that it is “intrinsically wrong” for a law-enforcement officer to break the law.
“Violations of law or disregard for the public safety or property on the part of an officer are intrinsically wrong,” Merkel said.
“The employment of illegal means ... is certain to encourage disrespect for the law and its officers. If the law is to be honored, those who enforce it must first honor it.”