Officer fired over classic car

WARREN – A veteran city police officer accused of ethics violations and professional misconduct has been fired.

In a letter Thursday, Warren police Chief Eric Merkel informed Reuben Shaw that he was terminated, effective immediately. Shaw’s termination comes about 10 months after he was placed on paid administrative leave.

Shaw, who started with the Warren Police Department in 1989, is accused of illegally having a vehicle towed from private property to his own garage in an attempt to keep the classic car for himself.

He has also been the focus of a criminal probe by the state Bureau of Criminal Investigation. That case was handed over to the Trumbull County Prosecutor’s Office in March and is still pending.

Messages left for Merkel at his office for comment were not returned Friday.

In the disciplinary action letter to Shaw, Merkel wrote that on June 30, 2013, the patrolman had assisted with a police call in reference to reports of possible trespassing at 2320 Kenwood Ave. S.W., a property thought to be abandoned, and noticed a 1969 Chevrolet Nova. Shaw expressed to other officers his desire ”to have such a vehicle to restore it,” Merkel wrote.

Merkel charged that Shaw, while still on duty, and another individual, who was not a police officer, returned to the property later that day, entered the locked garage and contacted May’s Towing to have the vehicle removed. Shaw asked May’s to tow the vehicle to his private garage on Palmyra Road S.W. and paid the towing company $50, Merkel wrote.

The chief noted that on July 1, 2013, he was informed of Shaw’s actions and instructed him to have the vehicle towed from his garage to May’s for impound and to complete a tow slip for the vehicle. Merkel explained that Shaw stated that he believed that the property and vehicle owners were deceased and that he collects classic cars. Shaw advised Merkel of his intentions to keep and restore the vehicle, Merkel wrote.

Merkel explained that Shaw towed the vehicle as ordered by the chief, but on the official tow slip falsely indicated that the vehicle was towed from the Kenwood Avenue property directly to May’s.

Merkel wrote ”You did not have permission or authority, after the initial call for service, to be on the premises or enter the locked garage. You did not have title to the vehicle or permission from the owners to seize the vehicle and did not follow proper protocol for towing abandoned vehicles.”

A disciplinary hearing for Shaw on Tuesday was canceled after Shaw waived his right to the hearing.

According to a letter released on Monday, the internal investigation revealed Shaw used his position as a Warren police officer to have May’s Towing transport the vehicle to a garage Shaw ”controlled, as opposed to having the vehicle towed to an impound lot.”

Merkel wrote that ”these and other actions demonstrate engagement in private activities while on duty and while being paid as a city of Warren police officer.”

Shaw was put on paid leave in July. BCI was brought in by Merkel because he was concerned the incident was potentially a criminal matter.

Shaw can appeal the chief’s decision and file a grievance. If Shaw takes that route a hearing will be scheduled before Warren Safety-Service Director Enzo Cantalamessa, who oversees the city’s police and fire departments.