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Deputy in crash was convicted in similar '98 wreck

BOWLING GREEN - A Wood County sheriff's deputy whose cruiser collided with another vehicle Sunday was convicted of reckless operation after a similar crash in 1998.

Leonard Vidra II, 44, was responding to an emergency call on a domestic dispute in progress in the village of Luckey about 11 a.m. Sunday when he drove through a red light at Glenwood and Buck roads and collided with a minivan driven by Altagracia Ybarra, 34, of Toledo. Both were treated at St. Luke's Hospital, Maumee, for minor injuries.

Rossford police Chief Dennis Foy, Sr., said yesterday Deputy Vidra had his lights and siren on. No one was immediately cited.

“Our investigating officer is going over it with the [city] prosecutor, who will make a determination on charges,” Chief Foy said.

Deputies must obey standard traffic signals when their lights and sirens are not activated for an emergency. That was the problem Aug. 5, 1998, when Deputy Vidra drove his cruiser through a stop sign and hit a car on State Rt. 281 in Montgomery Township while responding to a 911 hang-up call. The driver, Kimberly Theis, 18, of New Riegel, suffered minor injuries, but her passenger, Amanda Fleece, 18, of New Riegel, was hurt seriously.

After an investigation by the sheriff's office and examination by an out-of-county prosecutor, Deputy Vidra was cited in Bowling Green Municipal Court for reckless operation Feb. 4, 1999. He pleaded no contest and was found guilty of the misdemeanor May 7. Municipal Judge Mark Reddin suspended his driver's license for six months and ordered him to pay a $100 fine and court costs.

Sgt. Major Mike Blair, sheriff's operations manager, said Sheriff John Kohl suspended Deputy Vidra for two days and ordered him to undergo an eight-hour remedial driving course.

Deputy Vidra, who was hired as a deputy in June, 1995, was assigned to the office while his driving privileges were suspended, but returned to road patrol in November, 1999, when they were restored, according to Lt. Brenda Brenneman.

The family of Miss Fleece sued Deputy Vidra and Wood County in Common Pleas Court, ultimately settling out of court for “a substantial amount,” according to the Fleeces' attorney, Steven Collier. The settlement was not disclosed in court documents.

The deputy's personnel file shows no other evidence of disciplinary action or accidents. His most recent evaluation indicated he met or exceeded all of the department's expectations.

“He is an exceptional, very good officer,” Lieutenant Brenneman said. “There's nothing negative I could say about him. It's just a shame.”

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