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Newton Falls officer placed on paid leave

NEWTON FALLS — A part-time police officer has been placed on a 14-day paid administrative leave following a fatal traffic accident last week at the intersection of state Routes 5 and 534 in which his gun ended up in the car of someone who drove through a road block.

Police Chief Gene Fixler said he could not release details, including the officer’s name, since it is a personnel matter and the accident remains under investigation by the Ohio State Highway Patrol.

The suspension, which began Friday, was given by village manager Pamela Priddy, but a review of the village charter shows the police chief has sole disciplinary review over the department.

The two men accused of attempting to drive through the road block, set up as authorities investigated the fatal Sept. 14 crash, appeared in municipal court on Tuesday. Leaon Gordon, 26, of Brookfield, Conn., and Noah Denious, 22, of Cuyahoga Falls, were arrested early on Sept. 15 after authorities chased down the car in which they were riding. The vehicle had fled the area of state Routes 5 and 534 and was stopped in Portage County.

Gordon, who was identified as the driver, is charged with aggravated robbery, assault and failure to comply, while Denious faces tampering and aggravated robbery charges. Bond was set at $25,000 for Denious during a preliminary hearing on Tuesday and he is free on bond, but Gordon’s aggravated robbery charge is not bondable and he remains in custody, jail records show.

Fixler said an officer was directing traffic at the fatal crash when he was assaulted.

First responders had set up roadblocks in two places after an Akron man and a Leavittsburg woman were killed after a three-car crash at the Route 5 and 534 intersection. Three other people, including a 10-year-old, were injured.

Brandon O. Grove, 35, of Akron, and April M. Davis, 34, of Leavittsburg, both were declared dead at the scene, the patrol reported. As a result of the collision, witnesses said Grove’s vehicle traveled off the right side of the road, struck a traffic sign and overturned about 10 times before catching fire. The man was ejected partially from the vehicle.

The patrol said the investigation is continuing and drug use by Grove is suspected to be a factor in the accident. The patrol report states Grove ran a red light at the intersection.

Fixler said Newton Falls officers and patrol troopers were yelling for a vehicle with two people inside to stop from entering the Braceville accident scene.

“One of my officers was directing traffic when the vehicle came right toward him and a trooper,” he said.

Fixler said the officer drew his gun to try to stop the driver. But the driver drove over the officer’s foot and the gun ended up inside the suspect vehicle, which had an open window.

He said the patrol is still investigating the crash and the subsequent pursuit.

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