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Authorities raid ex-firefighter’s Vienna home

VIENNA — Investigators on Wednesday raided the Vienna home of a former Liberty firefighter the same day he resigned from his job amid allegations involving illegal use of prescription drugs.

A neighbor said he saw officers at the property when he arrived home from work in the late afternoon on Wednesday.

He said he was advised to stay off the property of former Liberty firefighter Josh Cleland, but said he witnessed many people at the house.

They “destroyed it,” leaving the home a mess, with items strewn around, the neighbor said. A lot of things were removed from the home, but said he doesn’t believe anything suspicious was found.

The neighbor said he has known the Cleland family for quite some time. He described them as “nice people.”

He said he finds it hard to believe Cleland was involved with drugs or anything suspicious.

The iPad belonging to Liberty firefighter / paramedic John Beard, who died April 12 after being found unresponsive at his McDonald home, was turned over by family members to Liberty police investigating his death. Text messages were discovered between Cleland and Beard dating back to February about trading pills, according to documents released Thursday by Liberty Township officials.

The texts show Beard asking for Vicodin, and Cleland responding with “Yeah, I’ll grab one.”

A 22-page internal police report released Thursday in response to a newspaper public record request indicated that Liberty police Capt. Ray Buhala was investigating the matter based on his training with the Mahoning Valley Drug Task Force.

Liberty Law Director Cherry Poteet would not comment as to whether Wednesday’s law enforcement raid at Cleland’s home was related to the investigation into the fire department. Poteet said earlier Thursday that the Mahoning Valley Drug Task Force is taking over the criminal investigation of the case.

Cleland was one of three firefighters who were dismissed from their jobs this week, according to an agreement with township officials.

bshiller@tribtoday.com

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