YPD two-officer patrol nets 85 doses of heroin and gun arrest


By Joe Gorman

jgorman@vindy.com

YOUNGSTOWN

Edward Thomas may want to turn down the stereo the next time he is driving.

Thomas, 34, of Miami Avenue, who has been to prison at least twice, was arrested Tuesday evening after running from a car he was driving that was pulled over for playing loud music – after officers found a loaded .380-caliber handgun reports said he threw away.

The last time Thomas was arrested with a gun, in October 2016, he also was pulled over for playing loud music.

The arrest of Thomas by officers Mark Sember and Travis Sheely came a short time after they booked another man into the Mahoning County jail, Chad Little, 34, of East Philadelphia Avenue. Little, who was pulled over for running a stop sign about 3:50 p.m. in the 100 block of East Warren Avenue on the South Side, told police after they discovered a bulge in his pants that he would take what was in his clothes out for them.

Officers found 85 individual doses of suspected heroin, 14 bags of suspected crack cocaine, five painkillers and more than $2,900 in cash.

Chief Robin Lees credited Sheely and Sember for their work.

“To take that amount of drugs and a gun off the street in the same shift is exemplary work,” Lees said.

Lees said their supervisors also deserve credit for scheduling the two to work together in a two-officer car. Although the majority of beats are patrolled by a single officer, shift commanders have the discretion to staff a car with two officers should they feel the need. They study call data and other statistics in determining if a car should be staffed by two officers if the manpower is available that day. Currently, Lees said the overall strength of the department’s patrol division allows it to staff a two-officer car should supervisors think the need is there.

Sheely and Sember work afternoon turn and were paired in Car 210 Tuesday, which concentrates on the south-central part of the city, Lees said.

“They’re right in the area where these kinds of things happen,” Lees said. “We know that from our crime analysis.”

Lees likes two-officer cars because the officers can be more aggressive, because they do not have to wait for backup to arrive. He said other officers who work in cars on their own are also proactive, but things can move at a quicker pace when they do not have to wait for another officer.

Capt. Rod Foley, head of the patrol division, and Lt. Brian Welsh, in charge of the afternoon shift, said they like to schedule two-officer cars in parts of the city where officers are free to roam, so they can drift into other beats when needed and also be more proactive.

Foley said Car 210 takes fewer calls than the other South Side cars, so they are free to concentrate more on patrol activities, such as traffic stops.

Both men arrested Tuesday are well-known to police.

In 2004, Little was sentenced to 11 years in prison for the 2001 shooting death of a 19-year-old man on a basketball court during an argument over a stolen car. Little was 16 when the crime was committed. He also had drug convictions in 2013 and 2016.

Municipal Judge Elizabeth Kobly on Wednesday set his bond at $20,000. He was arraigned on charges of possession of heroin, possession of cocaine and possession of drugs.

Thomas, meanwhile, has a criminal record stretching back to 2003 for weapons and receiving stolen property charges. In 2005, he was sentenced to two years in prison, and in 2009, he was sentenced to 30 months in prison.

In 2017, Thomas was sentenced after an October 2016 arrest when he was pulled over for playing loud music and a .357-Magnum revolver was found in his car. Online court records do not show what the sentence in that case was.

In December, Thomas was arrested by Boardman police on charges of improper handling of a firearm in a motor vehicle and being a felon in possession of a firearm. Those charges have yet to be bound over to a grand jury.

When police tried to pull him over about 6:50 p.m. Tuesday, reports said Thomas ran and threw a gun on the ground. He was caught in a nearby garage.

Judge Kobly set his bond at $45,000 Wednesday.

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