Man who assaulted cop, stole gun sentenced

Austintown man gets 11 to 14 years in prison

Staff photo / Ed Runyan Zachary R. Crespo, right, is seen with his attorney, Mark Lavelle, Wednesday during Crespo’s sentencing hearing for assaulting an Beaver Township police officer last May and stealing his gun.

YOUNGSTOWN — Judge John Durkin sentenced Zachary R. Crespo, 36, of Norquest Boulevard in Austintown, to 14 to 17 years in prison Wednesday for a May 12 confrontation in Beaver Township in which Crespo attacked and injured a Beaver Township police officer.

Crespo pleaded guilty in January to felonious assault and aggravated robbery, each with a gun specification, and prosecutors requested that Crespo get 16 to 19.5 years in prison.

The courtroom in Mahoning County Common Pleas Court was filled for the hearing, with people there supporting Crespo and law enforcement officers and others there in support of officer Vincent Arquilla.

The episode took place at a home on Old Hickory Court in Beaver Township when Arquilla and another officer responded to a domestic dispute involving Crespo and the mother of his children. Crespo “jumped” Arquilla in the garage and his gun was taken. Arquilla was bleeding profusely from the head, according to a Beaver Township police report.

Two officers had been dispatched about 11:20 p.m. to investigate the dispute. While responding, they learned a woman was reporting Crespo was trying to get into the house by breaking a window.

Arquilla arrived first, with the second officer arriving shortly after. When the second officer arrived, he tried to contact Arquilla over his radio, but received no response. The second officer walked around the house looking for a way inside while again trying to call Arquillo, again with no response.

By this time, the second officer noticed movement near the tree line near the home and pointed a flashlight there. Crespo was seen stepping into the wooded area, trying to hide. Crespo ignored the officer’s command to stop and continued to run into the woods, out of sight, the report states.

The second officer then knocked at the door to the home and learned from the woman that Arquilla was in the garage, the report states. Arquilla was trying to get to his feet. He was taken to the hospital by ambulance.

Mahoning County Prosecutor Gina DeGenova, who spoke for the prosecutor’s office, played a 911 recording of Crespo’s girlfriend, Courtney Doinoff, screaming for a prolonged amount of time in a panicked voice to someone to “Get out,” “Stop,” “No.” and yelling to the dispatcher that someone was “trying to break the window,” as well as “Oh my God.” A man’s voice also could be heard yelling back.

DeGenova said the terror of the call is “what officer Arquilla was walking into. He could have waited in the car. That would have been the safe route to take. It would have complied with department policy, but he chose to go in alone risking his own safety to protect another person.”

Arquilla knocked on a rear door to the garage. “Mr. Crespo knows that the police are coming. There’s no doubt that it is a law enforcement officer. In addition, officer Arquilla was in his duty uniform,” DeGenova said.

“When he opened the door, he was ambushed by defendant Crespo, who threw a large plastic bottle at his head. That caused officer Arquilla to lose his balance, causing him to fall on a parked car behind him. He tried to regain his balance, but the defendant jumped out of the door, over the steps and landed directly on him.”

Arquilla “was repeatedly punched in the head until he blacked out,” she said. Crespo then removed the officer’s duty weapon and fled the scene.” Arquilla “looked so bad that when officers arrived on the scene, they thought he was shot. This produced a shots-fired, officer-down call from dispatchers. Officers from all over the area arrived to assist.”

When it was eventually revealed that no shots were fired and the officer had not been shot, officers remained at the scene to assist in the hours-long “manhunt” for Crespo that involved 150 officers, drone teams, tactical teams and an aircraft, DeGenova said.

Crespo focused his gaze mostly on the wall during the nearly hour-long hearing. He and his attorney, Mark Lavelle, focused their statements on the post-traumatic stress disorder Crespo brought back home with him when he returned from military service in the Middle East.

Crespo apologized to the officer, and the police department said the incident was his first felony offense and he spent “the last 14 years raising and providing for my family.” He said he was released from a hospital psychiatric ward the day before the incident “for severe PTSD and insomnia.”

He said he developed an alcohol addiction, abused his prescriptions and “have been in and out of rehab.”

When he left the hospital, he drank alcohol and did not take his psychiatric medications, he said. He was “blackout drunk at the time of the incident.”

Judge Durkin, who runs the common pleas court’s drug court, said he has “been consistent” in appreciating the work of law enforcement officers and other first responders and the dangerous work they do.

He said he also recognizes that “our mental health system is broken on so many different levels, resulting in incarceration for “those people who suffer from a mental illness because in many cases there are no other options.”

He said he believes there is “incredibly beneficial counseling for individuals who have served our country and suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder.” The judge said he doesn’t think anybody believes that Crespo “set out to attack officer Arquilla.”

Beaver Township Police Chief Eric Datillo released a statement after the sentencing, thanking prosecutors for helping “send a clear message that our law enforcement officers’ safety is of paramount importance.” He also thanked the law enforcement agencies that assisted his department that night.

Have an interesting story? Email Ed Runyan at erunyan@vindy.com


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