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Police & Fire

Edon chief is still off after fatal June shot

Village only has 2 police officers

  • Williams-County-Shooting

    This home on U.S. 20, near County Road 7 in Williams County, where John Anderson was fatally shot in June during a well-being check.

    The Blade/Ryan Dunn
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    Szymczak

EDON, Ohio — Six months ago, the police chief of this Williams County village shot and killed an armed man during a mental-health check.

The mayor immediately placed Chief Tom Szymczak on paid leave pending an investigation and medical assessment. A grand jury two months ago found insufficient evidence to indict him.

But Chief Szymczak has not returned to work since the June 16 shooting outside Montpelier. In the meantime, he’s received about $26,000 and counting from the village, roughly 14 percent of the police department’s 2016 budget. He is one of two Edon police officers.

This uncertain future for the chief and police department has been a frustration for many, said Lee Lawrence, president of the village council.

“If this would happen in a larger department, you’d be able to reassign him to a different place, different division, different area. We’re a very small town. We don’t have the ability to do so,” Mr. Lawrence said.

Sheriff’s deputies responded about 10:30 that morning to the home of John Anderson, 59, after a health-care provider said Mr. Anderson might harm himself or others. Mr. Anderson quickly pointed his gun at their vehicle, deputies said.

Chief Szymczak, who arrived about 10:40 a.m., saw Mr. Anderson on the ground with a rifle barrel pointed up. Mr. Anderson pointed his weapon at a deputy and repeatedly ignored orders, the chief wrote in his report. He fired once about 10 minutes later from about 75 yards away, hitting Mr. Anderson in the back.

The chief’s actions have drawn ongoing criticism from Williams County Sheriff Steve Towns. 

He said Chief Szymczak guessed whether to use force, lacked proper judgment, and rushed a call deputies had under control.

Chief Szymczak has declined multiple interview requests. Mayor Duane Thiel and Village Solicitor Thomas Thompson did not return calls seeking comment Thursday.

Mr. Lawrence said Chief Szymczak’s extended absence leaves the village without ideal law enforcement coverage. At this point, both sides hope for a resolution, he said.

Should the mayor seek to fire the chief, he must first file administrative charges for village council to review.

“As a council member, if the mayor would choose to bring charges against the chief, we would have to stay neutral. We are the jury,” Mr. Lawrence said.

Contact Ryan Dunn at: rdunn@theblade.com, 419-724-6095, or on Twitter @rdunnblade.

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