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Firefighter charged with 2nd DUI in 2 years

Prosecutor suspended after tossing ’13 charge

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Steele's first DUI came after crashing into Boyd's Retro Candy Store in 2013.

THE BLADE
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For a second time in two years, a veteran Toledo firefighter is charged with drunken driving.

Todd Steele, 45, is charged in Toledo Municipal Court with driving while under the influence, open container in a moving vehicle, a marked-lanes violation, and not using headlights. He is scheduled to be arraigned today.

Mr. Steele, an 18-year veteran of the department who works out of the downtown Station 5, was charged with drunken driving in January, 2013, although the charge was dismissed by a city prosecutor.

RELATED CONTENT: Click here to view the police report

The new allegations were filed on Monday.

In a Toledo police report, officers wrote that at 2:08 a.m. Monday, they followed a white pickup truck north on Telegraph Road because the vehicle’s headlights were off. Officers activated their cruiser’s overhead lights, and continued to follow the truck. Officers sounded the cruiser’s siren, but the truck did not stop until it turned onto Mel Simon Drive.

When the truck stopped, Mr. Steele got out and, according to the police report, flashed his fire badge at the officers and said he is a Toledo firefighter.

Police said Mr. Steele refused to take a breath test and other sobriety tests. The police report states that Mr. Steele told officers he had been drinking at Four Horsemen, a West Toledo bar at Lewis and Eleanor avenues. Officers put Mr. Steele into the back of their police car and he complained of chest pains.

Mr. Steele was taken to Mercy St. Vincent Medical Center by Toledo Fire Department paramedics for treatment. Officers who stayed with the vehicle reported finding an open 12-ounce can of strawberry-flavored Mike's Hard Lemonade inside.

Neither Mr. Steele nor Jeff Romstadt, president of Local 92, could be reached for comment.

Toledo fire Lt. Matthew Hertzfeld, the department’s spokesman, said he could not comment on the case, or on Mr. Steele's employment status, citing an ongoing internal investigation.

On Jan. 14, 2013, at 11:44 p.m., Mr. Steele crashed his sport utility vehicle into a flag pole, stone monument, fire hydrant, and traffic-control box at Sylvania and Phillips avenues. The fire hydrant and monument flew through the air and smashed into a stone support pillar at Boyd's Retro Candy Store. Mr. Steele was then taken to Mercy St. Vincent Medical Center and treated for injuries from the crash.

The drunken-driving charge was dismissed months later by a prosecutor and Mr. Steele pleaded no contest to reckless operation. He was found guilty and ordered to pay a $50 fine and court costs. Law Director Adam Loukx suspended Scott Kunzler, the prosecutor, for five days for what Mr. Loukx called bad judgment in dropping the drunken-driving charge.

At the time, fire Chief Luis Santiago said “folks will be held accountable,” although it was not known Thursday what sanction, if any, was handed down to Mr. Steele.

Contact Taylor Dungjen at tdungjen@theblade.com, or 419-724-6054, or on Twitter @taylordungjen.

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