Jailhouse assault one reason for investigation of police chief
Bob Dreitzler, Dispatch Staff Reporter
(FAYETTE, Ohio) -- An internal investigation of Police Chief Larry Mongold involves his not reporting an assault last month involving two prisoners at the city jail, City Manager Stephen J. Sobers said yesterday.
The investigation also focuses on four police department employees who were on duty that night, Sobers said.
Mongold, chief of the 26-member department for about five years, has been on paid administrative leave since Feb. 14. while investigators examine the jailhouse assault and other unspecified matters.
The assault occurred Jan. 13 when Michael Lee West, 22, was arrested and jailed on charges of domestic violence and assault, according to an investigative report compiled by Fayette County Sheriff Vernon P. Stanforth.
The small jail was nearly full, and the jailer on duty told the arresting officers to place West in a cell with Kevin Bain, 28, who had been arrested the night before on drunken-driving charges.
West was drunk and both verbally and physically abusive to the police officers, Stanforth said.
Bain protested that he did not want to be in a cell with West, but the jailer told him "West was no different than Bain was when he had come in intoxicated,'' according to a report by Sheriff's Detective Sgt. James F. Sears.
When West entered the cell, he punched Bain in the jaw while Bain was lying on a bunk, according to documents from the investigation.
Police officers separated the two and placed them in separate cells.
Bain's jaw was red, but he said he didn't need medical treatment, the city officers told investigators.
He was transferred to the county jail the next day. There, Bain asked for medical treatment and was told by an emergency squad medic to take a nonprescription painkiller. X-rays taken later showed no fractures or other damage.
Bain said in a written statement that he suffered a headache and neck and back pains after the attack.
West was charged with assault for attacking Bain. He pleaded guilty Jan. 26 to the assault charge and the domestic-violence charge for which he was arrested. He was fined $ 150 and sentenced to 13 days in jail, the time he had already served.
City jail policy requires that prisoners who demonstrate violent behavior be placed in cells by themselves, according to a memo given to investigators by Sgt. Mark Rossiter, jail administrator.
The policy had just been renewed in November and police personnel in December signed a document that said they had read and understood it, Rossiter said.
Sobers said city officials were concerned because no one outside the police department was informed of the incident.
"It exposed us to some serious liability, and no one knew about it,'' he said. "It is a fairly serious issue, in our opinion. It should have been communicated all up and down the line.''
After learning of the incident, Sobers placed Mongold on paid leave. Sobers and Safety Director Victor Harris asked the sheriff to investigate.
Stanforth advised Sobers two days later that he had found no evidence of criminal acts. One of his investigators, however, is continuing to help the city with its internal probe of possible departmental rules infractions.
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