Exonerated SWAT team officers return to work


By J Swygart - jswygart@limanews.com



LIMA — The Allen County Sheriff’s Office on Friday identified the members of the Allen County SWAT team who were the subject of a special grand jury for their roles in the shooting death of a man in a two-county chase.

The four SWAT officers who were the subjects of the special grand jury were identified as Deputies Justin Kirk, who has been with the sheriff’s office since 2008; Barry Friemoth, an employee since 2014; Detective Corey Hanjora, who has worked with the sheriff’s office since 2012; and Sergeant Josh Bayer, a six-year veteran of the department.

Last month Terry Pierce Jr. led law enforcement officials from two counties on a chase that ended when Piece was shot and killed along U.S. 30 in western Van Wert County.

The four members of the SWAT team were placed on paid administrative leave after Pierce was shot and killed on Sept. 3. A special prosecutor was appointed to oversee the case, which was presented to a specially-convened grand jury in Van Wert on Thursday.

“All four employees were cleared to return to normal work duties as of 8 a.m. (Friday) morning,” according to a statement issued Friday morning by Lt. Andre McConnahea, public information officer with the sheriff’s office. “Our office is expecting to receive a detailed report from the Paulding County Sheriff’s Office later (Friday).”

Special Prosecutor Joe Burkhard of Paulding County said the jurors heard nearly two hours of testimony and deliberated only briefly before determining that the four officers acted within the scope of their duties and authority in using lethal force by firing the shots that killed the 46-year-old Pierce.

“We presented quite a bit of evidence,” Burkhard said Thursday. “The grand jury did not indict anyone, and as far as I’m concerned, this ends the investigation.”

Pierce died as the result of two gunshot wounds to the chest, according to a preliminary autopsy report from the Lucas County Coroner’s Office. The report revealed Pierce was shot by officers twice in the back and once in the left ankle. Small-caliber ammunition rounds were recovered, one from each side of Pierce’s chest, after piercing his lungs, the report says. One bullet passed through the man’s pulmonary artery.

Sheriff Matt Treglia has called a news conference for 10 a.m. Monday to provide additional information into the investigation.

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By J Swygart

jswygart@limanews.com

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