By RON SELAK JR.
WARREN -- Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine said Thursday the state's investigation into whether a police officer in Warren acted criminally should be handed off to the county prosecutor's office by the end of next week.
DeWine said delays in the investigation of Reuben Shaw, who was placed on paid leave in July when claims surfaced he may have had a vehicle illegally towed to property he owns, are due to the vehicle's out-of-state owner canceling interviews with investigators.
DeWine said the elderly woman canceled an interview arranged for September. A new date in October was set, but the woman, who had been hospitalized, declined to be interviewed while in the hospital due to concern that an interview would impact her recovery, DeWine said.
After leaving the hospital, the woman agreed to an interview on Jan. 22, but canceled due to the weather ``despite the fact that BCI (the state Bureau of Criminal Investigation) was coming to her.''
Finally, on Feb. 17, state investigators were able to talk to the woman, who, DeWine said, ``provided additional information that directly impacted the case and we're running that new lead down.''
DeWine talked about the case at the Tribune Chronicle before hosting a drug abuse community forum in Warren. He did not comment on whether the investigation has grown to include more cases.
Shaw was informed by letter in July that he was being put on paid leave pending the outcome ``any criminal and / or administrative investigations regarding the towing of a motor vehicle from private property.'' Police Chief Eric Merkel sought help from BCI, the attorney general's investigative arm, because he was concerned the incident was a ``potentially criminal matter.''
Warren has held off doing an internal investigation until BCI was finished, but could have proceeded independently.
In ``general terms,'' DeWine said, ``there is nothing ever to stop a police department from doing an internal investigation and taking administrative action, they do not have to wait for the attorney general. Our focus ... we do not focus on administrative, that is not what we do.''
DeWine said he understands why police departments wait to move on their own investigation. That ``maybe the right decision, but that is their decision, that is not our decision,'' DeWine said.