2008-06-14 / News

Complaint filed against Kirkersville Police Chief

By Scott Rawdon

KIRKERSVILLE - Just days into his appointment as acting Kirkersville police chief, Chris Martin received a written complaint from a resident, which was read aloud during the village council's June 4 meeting. The letter, written on behalf of residents Lee Hulme and Nina Spiezio-Hulme, stated the following:

"On Monday, May 26, 2008, between 4 to 5 p.m., OfficerChris Martin (chief of police) parked in the alley next to my house at 200 E. Main St. and walked up to my porch. He then proceeded to ask me if we bought the house. I told him that my wife and I were planning on buying the house, (and) that my parents are renting it to us until we can buy it.

"Then, OfficerMartin started telling me he 'busted' some guy with five pounds of pot (marijuana) in this house, to which I answered that it was me. I told him that I paid my dues and I did not want to talk about it. After that, I asked him to leave. Then he started saying that he thought I was going to work with 'them (the police).' I told him I valued my life, and my wife's life, too much to do that. At that point Mr. Martin began telling me that my parents did not own this house and started asking how my brother was. I told him he was fine, and that my parents do own this house.

"OfficerMartin began staring at my wife and asked if she was 'the girl in the room.' At this point, I became frightened for my wife. Again, I asked him to leave. He persisted in questioning me about the 'bust' and about my wife. This time I did not ask him to leave; I told him to leave. He still would not leave. I then asked him his name and told him goodbye.

"My wife was in tears after this and said she did not know how she could ever feel safe, alone in this house, after this. It saddens me to know that we cannot feel safe in Kirkersville. Not because of the citizens, but because of those who are sworn protectors (the chief of police) of this village.

"The night I was arrested by the police, my wife (then girlfriend), was sexually harassed and refused clothing by several of the officersinvolved. OfficerMartin was one of those officers. He clearly recognized her and made it a point to bring up those memories, which both frightened and humiliated my wife.

"I admitted my wrongdoing and have paid the consequences. I do not feel that we should be expected to just put up with this type of harassment. We have not even moved in yet and it has already begun. There were three other people who witnessed this aside from my wife and I. They were there to help us move items into the house.

"I just want to be able to provide my wife with the life she deserves and it pains me to think she does not feel safe in my own hometown. Therefore, I wish to filean officialcomplaint against this officerand can only hope this brings an end to it once and for all. Thank you for your time and consideration."

Ashcraft said only that the situation is currently under investigation.

Martin said Wednesday that he has no comment on the situation at this time.

In a related matter, Ashcraft said part-time officerDoug Hoover is not back to work for Kirkersville as of Wednesday, following a May 23 incident where, as a privately hired security guard at Columbus' X Gentleman's strip club, he shot and wounded a strip club employee who went on a rampage. Following a dispute with co-workers, Columbus Police said the employee, Ashley Hildreth, drove her SUV into two parked vehicles, struck one of her co-workers and then headed toward another. Hoover shot at Hildreth's vehicle to stop her.

Martin said June 4 that Columbus Police considered the incident a "justifiableshooting" and there will be no charges pressed against Hoover, who was not on duty for Kirkersville at the time of the shooting.

In other council news:

• No member of the village government said they wanted bats living in the Village Hall's tower to be harmed, but it may be too late. The Varment Guard company placed doors over openings in the tower to keep the bats from returning to their nests; this method of extermination is called "exclusion." Unfortunately, the company may have trapped some bats inside the tower, slowly killing them and their offspring. It's understood that holes are never sealed May through July for bat control because females and their offspring may become trapped. Council planned to hold a special meeting with Varment Guard representatives June 11 to learn why they sealed the holes in late May when they were aware that doing so is cruel to the bats, but that meeting was cancelled because Varment Guard representatives were not available for the special meeting.

Manon VanSchoyck submitted a letter to council on the bats' behalf. VanSchoyck is executive director of the Ohio Nature Education Center, which provides homes for more than 35 permanently injured or non-releasable animals facing euthanization. The center incorporates the animals into its environmental education programs.

According to VanSchoyck's letter, a bat biologist confirmedexclusions should not be attempted May through August. November is the best time because the young are mature enough to flyand successfully leave the colony.

VanSchoyck wrote, "If Varment Guard wants this to go away then we need to get someone up there and look to see if there are dead bats (in the tower). Aren't they supposed to do a clean up for (the village) as part of the fee? I have contacted the Licking County Wildlife Officer,left an email with Donna Daniel of the Ohio Division of Wildlife, and will contact the Human Society of the US if I do not get satisfaction. I would hate for the Kirkersville Council to get caught up in this mess, but until I get satisfaction, I won't stop. I want to know if and how many dead bats there are so that I can stop Varment Guard repeating this mistake again. God help the individuals who sealed up that colony knowing there were babies inside! I will not let this go until it's all over the media."

VanSchoyck added, "Wouldn't it have been nice had (the village) taken the high road, done the exclusion in the fall and secured a grant to erect a nice maternity box in the village?"

Ashcraft said Varment Guard removed the doors from the tower June 4, but they were installed May 30 - enough time to kill any bats trapped in the tower.

Former council member and Buckeye Lake resident Bonnie Mansfieldurged council to search the tower for surviving bats as quickly as possible.

Street Commissioner Mike Cloud said it was his understanding that none of the bats would be harmed in the process. Council members agreed Varment Guard should be held responsible.

Wednesday, Ashcraft said he spoke to the company president who said the doors will be reinstalled September, with work completed in October. He said "there are still bats flying around" the tower. Ashcraft said council members were satisfied the situation was resolved and it's very unlikely anyone from Varment Guard will appear before council.

• South Alley will receive speed bumps, warning signs, and 40 tons of gravel. Ashcraft said the alley is heavily traveled and its speed limit abused. Council members hope the speed bumps will slow traffic. Four speed bumps and two signs will cost $560.80.

• Board of Public Affairs members may receive $30 per month to serve, but, if approved, board members would not be paid until the beginning of their next term.

• The village may work with the Licking County Planning Commission to create a Kirkersville Comprehensive Plan. The planning commission would charge $500 to assist with the plan.

• A room that will become a new evidence room for the police department needs to be cleaned up first. Ashcraft said most of the items are unusable, such as old tires and antiquated computer equipment.

• Council approved spending $452 for two external hard drives-one to back-up village administrative data and the other to back-up recordings made from cameras mounted on police cruisers. Council also approved $1,000 to repair a cruiser's differential and $250 to repair a cruiser's audio/visual system, which records traffic stops and other law enforcement events.

• Several residents commented during the June 4 meeting that it's difficultto hear council members speak. There are three microphones on the council bench, but members aren't sure how well the speakers are working. Ashcraft suggested placing additional speakers in the back of the room. He said after the meeting that the village would look into improving the system.

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