LIMA — A sophomoric stunt executed by a 25-year-old Lima man when he set off a fire alarm at the University of Northwestern Ohio likely seemed much less humorous Wednesday as he stared at the possibility of a stint behind bars.
Judge Terri Kohlrieser ruled out a prison sentence “at this time” for Damian Polen, but did dole out a hefty $5,000 fine, 100 hours of community service and strict reporting conditions to go with a three-year term of probation.
Polen was indicted by a grand jury in November of 2020 on a misdemeanor count of acting as a firefighter and a second-degree felony charge of inducing panic.
During Wednesday’s sentencing hearing Kohlrieser called Polen’s behavior “deplorable.” The judge said Polen purchased a key on eBay that allowed him to open an emergency signal box at UNOH.
“And this wasn’t your first time, Mr. Polen. You were already on probation for an offense of this same type,” Kohlrieser said. “This is ridiculous. I don’t know what is going on in your head.”
The judge found the victim in the case — the American Township Fire Department — suffered “serious financial harm” by being forced to respond to a false alarm.
Kohlrieser said among the items found in Polen’s vehicle following the incident were flashing emergency lights, a badge and a pellet gun that resembled a lethal handgun. The judge also noted that American Township Fire Chief Thomas Hadding “knows you well because of your behavior at other (fire) scenes.”
The indictment alleged that on or about Sept. 3, 2019, Polen “did cause the evacuation of a public place or otherwise cause serious public inconvenience or alarm by initiating or circulating a report or warning of an alleged or impending fire, explosion, crime of other catastrophe … knowing that such report was false.”
Polen in April entered into an agreement with prosecutors and pleaded guilty to a third-degree felony count of attempted inducing panic. Kohlrieser seemed to seriously consider a prison term before settling on the three years of probation.
As part of his probation Polen is prohibited from having any flashing lights, badges or look-alike weapons in his vehicle. He was ordered to complete any and all counseling recommended by his probation officer and to perform 100 hours of community service within a year.
Polen was also fined $5,000.