Investigation, scrutiny for Warren cops

WARREN – As state investigators began looking into potentially criminal actions of one police officer, another is being scrutinized for allowing a suspect to carry a gun into a cruiser.

Bureau of Criminal Identification and Investigation representatives were at the Warren Police Department on Tuesday after officially launching a criminal investigation centered around veteran police officer Reuben Shaw.

Shaw, who is accused of illegally towing a car to his private property without the owner’s permission, was placed on paid administrative leave last week.

Lt. Dan Mason of the Warren City Police Department’s Internal Affairs Division said the investigation into Shaw’s activities are in BCI’s hands. He said Warren city could initiate its own internal investigation, but the two cannot overlap.

“Once BCI has completed its investigation, they will turn it over to the chief and we’ll go from there,” Mason said. “Right now we’re waiting for the results of the investigation.”

Warren police Chief Eric Merkel asked BCI to investigate what he considered to be a potentially criminal matter.

Meanwhile, Mason confirmed his department is looking into how a suspect was able to carry a gun into a police cruiser undetected and through the reach of officers responding to a reported burglary early Sunday morning.

According to a Warren police report, officers Brian Martinek, Peter Gornitas and Eric Laprocina handled the call.

The report states officers were dispatched to Peace Street in reference to a burglary in progress around 1:45 a.m. They arrested two males, including a juvenile. A portion of the report written by Martinek states he walked one of the suspects, Jamil Lowe, 19, of Atlantic Street N.E., to his cruiser and placed him in the rear driver’s side of the vehicle.

Martinek states “I did not pat him down at this time,” indicating Lowe had already been in another cruiser and had been handcuffed for about 10 minutes. Martinek writes that Lowe “started to slide over to the passenger side of the rear seat and I heard a ‘thud’ sound.”

Martinek wrote he thought Lowe had kicked off the floor and was moving over as he was talking to the officer about why he was arrested.

The report continues that after Martinek arrived at the Trumbull County Jail, he opened up the rear driver’s side door and “noticed a brown-handled handgun” lying on the floor.

Lowe denied the gun was his “cause he was patted down earlier and nothing was found,” Martinek wrote.

Martinek noted he checked the rear of the car and rear seat before his shift and nothing was there. Lowe was the only person in the back of the car, he added. The report also states that the other suspect said he knew “where they got the gun at.”

Sgt. Bryan Holmes was the approving officer who signed off on the report.

Mason said the officers involved could be reprimanded. However, it appears the incident resulted from a tactical error and not negligence, he said.

“Basically, what happened is that one officer had patted the suspect down but somehow the gun slipped through,” he said. “For whatever reason, the second officer did not pat him down.”

Mason said department policy is for all suspects to be patted down before they go into a cruiser for transport and as they are being transferred from one cruiser to another.

Martinek was hired in November 2001, Laprocina in March 2005 and Holmes in September 2004. Gornitas is a rookie.

“We’re talking to everyone involved,” Mason said. “Maybe it’s a case where more training is needed. It seemed to be very confusing and a lot going on. It’s something we are taking seriously. But, at least for now, I really do believe it was a mistake made by an officer with an outstanding record.”

Lowe is being held without bond at the Trumbull County Jail. He is charged with attempted aggravated burglary and carrying a concealed weapon. He made an initial court appearance Monday morning and has a preliminary hearing set for 2 p.m. July 15 in Warren Municipal Court.