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Wed. 1:58 p.m.: UPDATE: Warren police chief wants officer fired today

WARREN — Police Chief Eric Merkel said he will recommend that officer Noah Linnen be fired — as soon as today — from the Warren Police Department due his to Jan. 13 decision that triggered a massive manhunt in at least three communities for an imaginary man who he claimed shot at him while he was off duty.

Linnen claimed he was involved in an exchange of gunfire with a black male in a black SUV on Pine Avenue shortly after 5:30 p.m. At the time, Linnen claimed he stopped to help the occupant of what appeared to be a disabled SUV. The SUV driver used Linnen’s own weapon to shoot at the officer, according to Linnen’s initial report.

That story led to approximately 45 law enforcement officers from 10 agencies being called out that night to search for the man and vehicle, neither of which existed, the chief said. An investigation by the Howland Police Department led to the officer’s confession that the story was fabricated to protect himself from getting into trouble because he fired his service revolver.

“It’s outrageous, make no bones about that,” Merkel said. “Currently, he is still on administrative leave, as per the policy of any officer involved in a shooting.”

Merkel said he is waiting for the affidavit to be be delivered from the county to his department, which will be used as part of Warren’s internal investigation. The charges on the affidavit will be placed on the disciplinary letter, which will be used in determining the level of discipline required in this situation.

Merkel is expected to recommend that Linnen be fired.

“I’m hoping this will be done by the end of today,” Merkel said.

Merkel already has been in contact with the Ohio Patrolman’s Benevolent Association, the patrol officer union, which could waive the hearing required if the department seeks to fire Linnen.

Merkel said it was apparent on Jan. 13 that Linnen’s story was not adding up, but the department had to wait for the investigation by the Howland Police Department and the state Bureau of Criminal Investigation and the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Identification and Investigation to go forward.

According to police reports, Linnen now says that he was parked on Pine Avenue to look up something on his cellphone when an oncoming car crossed the center line and appeared to head toward him. He said he fired three shots at the car through his open window. He said because he feared getting into trouble for firing his service weapon, he used his backup weapon to fire a couple shots in his direction, one of which grazed the shoulder of his jacket, police said. He then drove further south on Pine Avenue and called it in as an exchange of gunfire during an attempted robbery, police said.

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