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Published: Monday, 6/21/2010

Ottawa Hills officer gets 10 years in shooting of motorcyclist


A former Ottawa Hills police officer was sentenced to 10 years in prison Monday for the shooting of a motorcyclist during a May, 2009, traffic stop.

Thomas White, 27, was convicted May 14 in Lucas County Common Pleas Court of felonious assault with a gun specification for the shooting of Michael McCloskey, Jr. A jury deliberated for about six hours after a week-long trial before reaching a verdict.

Following sentencing, White posted a $100,000 bond and was released from custody Monday afternoon pending his appeal of the case. Assistant prosecutors opposed the bond.

Judge Gary Cook sentenced White to seven years in prison for the felonious assault charge plus an additional mandatory three years for the gun specification.

The judge acknowledged White's past in law enforcement and the difficult job of police officers. But he said that White did not take the time to assess the situation so that he understood what he was encountering.

"You didn't even give it a second to take a breath and look at what was going on and for that a tragedy occurred," Judge Cook said.

Mr. McCloskey, 25, was paralyzed from the waist down after being shot in the back while stopped on his motorcycle at Indian Road and Central Avenue. The incident was recorded on the dashboard camera in White's patrol vehicle and played for the jury.

In a lengthy statement made before his sentencing, White defended his actions saying he acted in the way he was trained to do. He said he was "at a loss" to understand how a police officer was indicted on criminal charges "because of a split-second decision."

"On May 23, 2009, I performed and fulfilled the duties required by my oath of office as an Ohio peace officer for the Village of Ottawa Hills," he said. "…I recognize that Mr. McCloskey's injuries are unfortunate but I did what I was required to do, by law and by my oath of office."

White did not offer an apology during his statement and shook his head while Judge Cook explained that he should have taken the time to better assess the situation.

Mr. McCloskey, who is paralyzed from the waist down and in a wheelchair, began crying when he heard the sentence. He did not speak at the sentencing because he had recently been released from the hospital and did not feel able.

After the sentencing, he expressed gratitude to the assistant prosecutors Jeff Lingo and J. Christopher Anderson for their work on the case and for the support in the community. He then explained his tears were a result of all the "uncontrollable emotions" that had piled up over the year.

"I'm starting to find words," he said, adding that finally he feels that there has been "justice."

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