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Gun Play

By Gregory Flannery · August 10th, 2005 · All The News That Fits
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The Cleves Police Department has some unusual ways of handling other people's firearms.

A recent investigation by the Hamilton County Sheriff's Office led to no criminal charges but found evidence that one Cleves officer tossed a confiscated handgun into either the Great Miami River or the Whitewater River an officer on orders from a superior officer and that an officer sold another handgun for a woman who asked police to remove it from her house.

Perhaps most troubling of all, the sheriff's detectives concluded that, in a sworn affidavit, Chief Mark Demeropolis made statements about the second gun that appear to be untrue.

The sheriff's office recently released documents from the investigation after the prosecutor's office decided no charges would be filed. The released documents are curious in part because the sheriff's office redacted the names of Cleves Police officers but left in place the names of private citizens who were interviewed -- including the name and telephone number of a woman alleged to have had sex with an officer while he was on duty.

In an earlier interview with CityBeat, Demeropolis said he ordered an officer to dispose of an object seized during a traffic stop (see Porkopolis, issue of June 8-14).

"We couldn't even determine if it was an actual firearm," Demeropolis said. "I said, 'It's garbage. Throw it away.' "

Questioned by sheriff's detectives, the subordinate officer made clear the object was a handgun and that his superior -- again, the cops' names are redacted -- told him, "Throw it in the frickin' river."

Demeropolis says he wasn't yet chief at the time of the incident.

The sheriff's report lays the responsibility on the subordinate officer.

"Investigation revealed that (name redacted) did, in fact, tell (name redacted) to throw the gun into the river," says a case summary by Det. Bryan Peak. "However, this statement could have been made in jest, and (name redacted) is the person responsible for the action of throwing the gun into the river. It does not appear that (name redacted) was forced to throw the gun in the river and that he used very poor judgment in doing so."

Also at issue is a gun turned over to the police for safekeeping by Nancy Hemberger, whose live-in boyfriend had been arrested. After the man was acquitted, he asked for his gun to be returned. When he sued in small claims court, Demeropolis gave an affidavit saying it had been returned to the woman, because she had a receipt for it.

But when interviewed by sheriff's investigators, the woman said she never had a receipt and the gun didn't belong to her in the first place. Instead, she told investigators, a Cleves Police officer (name deleted by the sheriff's office) offered to sell the gun on her behalf and later visited her home to give her the proceeds of the sale.

"Based on Hemberger's statement and with the evidence collected in this investigation, this deposition (sic) is not a truthful statement made by (name redacted)," Peak's summary says.

Although the sheriff's office withheld the name of the person who allegedly lied, it identifies the document. A simple search of public records available from the Hamilton County Clerk of Courts shows it was an affidavit given Feb. 17 by Demeropolis.

If Peak's conclusion is accurate and Demeropolis' affidavit is false, the result was a miscarriage of justice. The judge who heard the lawsuit filed by the gun's owner threw the case out of court. After all, the chief of the Cleves Police Department swore the gun had been returned.

The sheriff's investigation was partly in response to a series of anonymous letters about the gun thrown in the river and other alleged misconduct involving the Cleves Police Department.

In January, 11 of the 14 officers on the police department signed a petition calling for Demeropolis to resign (see "Chief Problem," issue of Jan. 26-Feb. 1). Some of the officers who signed the petition have since been disciplined or terminated.



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