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Police chief 'would be entirely surprised' if sergeant is charged

Cary Ashby • May 13, 2013 at 3:58 PM

Norwalk Police Chief Dave Light said Tuesday he would be surprised if one of his sergeants is charged in connection with his girlfriend, a local corrections officer, having a black eye.

"From what I see, I would be entirely surprised if he's charged with anything," said Light, who stressed there are "too many twists and turns" to the case.

The sergeant, who isn't being named because he hasn't been charged, has declined to comment. Light has prohibited the suspect from having any contact with his girlfriend or her daughter until the case is resolved.

"He certainly didn't put his hands or fists on her," Light said.

Light explained why the officer remains on active duty. He said he didn't want to pull the suspect off the street when his accuser apparently provided "five different stories" when she was interviewed.

"It's hard to take it seriously when there are so many stories about a black eye," Light said.

Also, the chief said he is waiting to get all the information from the Huron County Sheriff's Office about the interview with the girlfriend until he and Capt. Mike Conney sit down with the suspect.

The woman returned from sick leave April 16 after being off work at the Huron County Jail for about a week.

Chief Deputy Ted Patrick has said Lt. Chris Stanfield, the woman's supervisor, asked her if her sick leave was related to having a black eye. Detective Kayla Zander was present and took notes on the interview.

"When he (Stanfield) asked her about the black eye, she said she was assaulted by (the Norwalk officer)," Patrick said.

Light and Conney went to the sheriff's office April 16 and discussed the matter with Patrick, Stanfield and Sheriff Dane Howard.

"They informed us of the (allegations) and the investigation," Light said.

He and Conney received the written report April 23, but they're still waiting to receive the audio/video recording of the interview. Light said only he, Conney and Norwalk Law Director Stuart O'Hara have seen the report and they won't talk to the suspect until they have the audio/video component of Stanfield's interview.

"For us to do an internal investigation, we have to have all the information," Light said. "Anytime something like this happens, we will do that."

Conney, a non-union officer, will be overseeing Norwalk's pending internal investigation.

Deputy John Vogel uncovered the abuse allegations when he responded to an unruly juvenile complaint at the corrections officer's home April 13. Patrick has referred to the complaint as "a disturbance call" related an unruly juvenile complaint. He said the deputy noticed the woman had a black eye that "appeared to be a week old."

"The other eye looked like it was about to turn black," he said.

The woman had a "bruised (and) swollen right eye," according to Vogel's report, which is listed as a domestic violence complaint. The report states the woman accused her boyfriend, a "former co-habitant," of hitting her right eye with a "full 20-ounce bottle of Diet Coke during a domestic dispute" when they were returning from an unspecified trip.

"She didn't want to comment on it. ... The daughter stepped up and she said (her mother) got hit by a Norwalk officer she's dating," Patrick said.

Upon returning from the call, Vogel reported what he saw and heard to his commanding officers.

Light said deputies determined the woman received one of the black eyes from a family member.

"That family member was removed from her house. It's not our employee," he said.

When Stanfield asked the woman about the "faint, yellow bruising" around her eye, "that's when you get five different stories," Light said.

"It's my understanding she never made a complaint about this," the chief added.

The woman reported "wrecking her car" -- a story she reportedly added after her previous explanations for her injury, Light said.

"That came out later," he said.

Richland County Sheriff's Capt. Eric Bosko opened an investigation Friday because the suspected incident involving one of the black eyes happened in his jurisdiction.

"We've done the interviews. We're in the initial stages," said Bosko, who has declined to say what's left do with his investigation.

Once the probe is completed, Bosko will forward his findings to the Mansfield law director for review and the consideration of charges.

"I've already been in touch with (prosecutors)," Bosko said Sunday.

Light said he's skeptical about the allegations because the woman never made an abuse complaint against his sergeant.

"I'm not going to go after the employee with all that," he said.

"I want to hear the whole context of the interview," Light said. "You can't pick things out of there."

The chief also doesn't want to take any action against the sergeant because of the ongoing Richland County investigation.

"We don't want to compromise their investigation," Light said.

When asked if the officer could be fired, Light said it would depend if there was a conviction. He also said he would be making a decision on the suspect's fate once he has all the information from both sheriff's offices and Conney's internal investigation.

"The mayor has the final say," Light said.

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