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Published: Saturday, 9/20/2008

Police justified in killing man, panel rules

BY DAVID PATCH
BLADE STAFF WRITER

Three Toledo police officers who shot an apparently distraught man in North Toledo two months ago did so justifiably, the police department's Firearms Review Board has ruled.

If anything, Deputy Chief Donald Kenney, Jr., said yesterday, Sgt. Keith Miller and Officers Ed Gust and Susan Surgo waited longer than necessary before firing nine shots, six of which struck Allen Cole at the climax of a five-minute confrontation July 23 between him and police on North Detroit Avenue near Crawford Avenue.

"It's nothing to be joyous over," Chief Kenney said of the review board's unanimous vote to exonerate the three officers. "I feel for the victim, and I feel for the victim's family. But the officers had no choice."

Video from a camera in Sergeant Miller's cruiser was released by the department yesterday in response to media requests under Ohio's public records law. It shows Mr. Cole gesturing repeatedly with his left hand during an animated conversation that ensued after the sergeant observed Mr. Cole on the sidewalk along North Detroit and stopped to intercept him.

After Mr. Cole reached into his waistband twice, the second time producing a gun, officers not visible in the video fired and he crumpled to the ground.

Unseen throughout the recording is Mr. Cole's right hand, in which police said he carried another gun that he at times pointed at himself.

Chief Kenney said numerous witnesses corroborated officers' testimony that Mr. Cole displayed the gun and repeatedly defied officers' commands to lay it down.

Police sought out Mr. Cole, 40, of Bedford Township after his wife, Gail, called 911 to report he had a gun and had threatened to harm her and himself.

Mrs. Cole is seen in the video running into the street toward her husband after the shooting, then being held back by police.

Detectives later interviewed Mrs. Cole as well as motorists who were stopped on Detroit during the officers' confrontation with him and witnessed the shooting.

Overall, Chief Kenney said, more than 20 people were interviewed.

Dorothy Clark, Mr. Cole's grandmother, said yesterday that police acted too hastily and should have used nonlethal means to subdue Mr. Cole, known to his family as "Dale."

"He was sick. They had other means of handling him besides killing him," she said, suggesting officers could have shot at his legs, or surrounded him and used a Taser.

Chief Kenney said Tasers are not a recommended tactic for subduing people carrying firearms.

Michelle Frank, a sister of Mr. Cole, said the day after the shooting that she wished police had been able to keep her brother talking long enough for their father to arrive because she believed the father could have persuaded Mr. Cole to surrender.

Other relatives said medication Mr. Cole was taking for a back injury affected his mental state.

While Police Chief Michael Navarre said shortly after the shooting that the case appeared to be one of committing suicide by provoking police, the police chief later backtracked.

Chief Kenney said yesterday that he could not confirm such a motive.

"I can't say that," he said. "I have no idea what was going through his head at the time."

Dr. James Patrick, Lucas County coroner, declared Mr. Cole's death to be a homicide after an autopsy found six wounds - to the chest, abdomen, left arm, hand, and leg, with the torso wounds being fatal.

Toxicology tests revealed no significant impairing substances.

The Firearms Review Board, comprised of top police department brass and a Toledo Police Patrolman's Association representative, held a hearing on Thursday.

Its 5-0 decision to exonerate the officers was approved by Chief Navarre before being made public.

The police investigation's findings also were referred to the Lucas County Prosecutor's Office, which sought no criminal charges, Chief Kenney said.

After three days on administrative leave, all three officers returned to their regular patrol duties, the deputy chief said.

Contact David Patch at:

dpatch@theblade.com

or 419-724-6094.



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