YOUNGSTOWN - An officer who as a member of the U.S. Marshal's Fugitive Task Force fired his weapon in a Warren plaza last month was cleared of any wrongdoing in a Police Department internal investigation.
Officer Gregory Mullenex was found to have operated within the department's policies on the use of deadly force, said Lt. Brian Butler, head of the department's Internal Affairs Division.
''Our investigation showed that Officer Mullenex was justified in using deadly force given his honest and reasonable belief that such force was absolutely and immediately necessary to protect another human being from serious physical harm or death,'' Butler wrote in his report.
Mullenex, along with Girard officer Greg Manete and three other task force officers, were trying to arrest Charles Hill, 36, of Alliance, on several warrants on March 26 in the Warren Plaza on Elm Road.
Police said Hill tried to run over Manete, who was in front of Hill's SUV, before one of the unmarked police vehicles rammed Hill's SUV. Hill also had a woman - who police said was held against her will - in the passenger seat with him.
Hill dislodged his SUV from the police vehicle before Mullenex fired a round from his .40-caliber semiautomatic service pistol into one of the back tires, puncturing it, police reports states. Manete fired a shot at the front windshield but missed.
Hill led police on a chase on Elm Road into Bazetta, where he abandoned his SUV near a wooded area. Police from several departments searched the woods before Hill was arrested hours later at a hotel in Liberty. Hill had released the woman before he ran away.
He is being held in Trumbull County Jail on several changes, including assault against a police officer, abduction and receiving stolen property. He was not injured by the gunfire.
Youngstown police policy states officers can use deadly force when they believe the force is necessary to protect against the death or serious physical harm of another person or if a person will cause death or serious physical harm to another person if that person escapes.
Butler's report states Mullenex told investigators he thought Hill was going to try to run Mullenex over and that he also remembered briefings on Hill, who had told family and friends he would not let police take him without a shootout.
Butler, who was aided by Lt. Jason Simon and Girard police Capt. John Norman, interviewed several witnesses, including people who were at the plaza. They tried to talk to Hill but he declined on the advice of his attorney.
Girard police Chief Jeffrey Palmer did not return a message seeking comment.