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Elyria Sgt. in shooting has disciplinary history


 ELYRIA — A city police sergeant involved in the Oct. 30 shooting of a 27-year-old man whom he and his partner said threatened them with a handgun previously served a three-day suspension in 2014 for firing a live round during a training simulation.

Sgt. Jacob D. Webber also has several write-ups in his personnel file, which was provided to The Chronicle-Telegram in a public records request after the nonfatal Oct. 30 shooting of 27-year-old Richard Carlton.

Webber also admitted in 2010 to posting in a room at the police station potentially harassing hand-drawn pictures of a sergeant and Police Chief Duane Whitely, out of what he said was “frustration” at conditions there.

The 45-year-old Amherst resident and 11-year veteran officer also was involved in the last fatal on-duty police-involved shooting in the city in 2012, according to Chronicle archives.

Webber became a member of the Elyria Police Auxiliary in May 2005 after working in construction and home inspection, and was hired as an officer in January 2007. He was promoted to sergeant Aug. 6, and he served on the SWAT team, according to his personnel file.

Both he and the other officer involved in the Oct. 30 shooting, 32-year-old Anthony J. Weber of Parma Heights, remain on paid administrative leave pending the outcome of a Lorain County Sheriff’s Office investigation into Carlton’s shooting.

Officer Anthony Weber’s personnel file was free of any disciplinary issues.

A message seeking comment was sought from Sgt. Webber through a supervisor.

Carlton, the man wounded by police gunfire, is in Lorain County Jail on $1.25 million bond, charged with two counts of second-degree felonious assault.

Elyria Police Capt. Chris Costantino said Webber did have some past incidents and was disciplined as a result, but he matured and grew into a good police officer. Webber worked for Costantino in the Detective Bureau for a year.

“Officer Webber did an excellent job for me and he was very dedicated,” he said. “I could always count on him. He was on the SWAT team and he never says no to a call out. He’s always there. He never shies away from any dangerous assignment.”

Costantino said both officers rolled up to the scene Oct. 30 and encountered a situation that could have turned out far worse had they not acted as they did.

“They arrived on a scene and heard a man say, ‘I’ve got something for you,’ heard a gun being engaged and had a guy come out and point a gun at them. Luckily, these officers weren’t hurt nor was an innocent person in that area,” Costantino said. “Especially in light of what happened in the (Thousand Oaks) California nightclub last night — officers are going into danger, not running from it. That officer that went into that nightclub, he made the decision to go in and engage the gunman and it cost him his life. Sometimes, I think some of what police officers do is taken for granted, the dangers of the job are taken for granted.”

Twelve people died in that attack.

Accidental discharge

Webber was suspended without pay for three days in 2014 by Whitely after he accidentally fired a live .40-caliber round through a projector screen during a Nov. 19, 2014, simulated firearms training exercise.

According to a supervisor’s report, the officers taking part were asked to place their live firearms on a table in the back of the room where the exercise was taking place and exchange them for simulated ones.

During the training and in the presence of other officers, Webber picked up another officer’s duty firearm “thinking it was a training firearm, and interjected himself into the training scenario” without the trainer’s knowledge, according to the report.

Webber, who was “not assigned to take part in the exercise,” according to a disciplinary finding by Whitely, “indicated it was his decision to interject himself into the training scenario. He was attempting to add an element to the scenario that nobody was expecting,” according to his supervisor’s report.

No one was injured, but the bullet damaged the projector screen — which cost the Police Department $421 to replace — and “caused a large chip in the wall” without going through it, the report stated.

Webber “indicated he was aware real firearms were present in the room, but was unaware any were on the back table” he took the firearm from, according to the report.

Despite the incident, Whitely called Webber “an excellent officer” and hard worker with a good attitude in his finding for a three-day unpaid suspension.

Fatal shooting

Webber also was one of three Elyria officers cleared of any wrongdoing in the last police-involved shooting in the city, according to Chronicle archives.

On July 15, 2012, he and two other officers responded to a 911 call on West River Road North from a man who said he had shot and killed his wife and planned to kill himself. The officers eventually fired between 15 and 23 rounds at 50-year-old William King after King pointed a handgun at two of them, investigators determined.

King was hit seven times and he later died at a hospital. His wife was not home at the time and was not injured.

A Lorain County Sheriff’s Office investigation couldn’t determine how many times Webber fired his patrol rifle, but estimated it was seven or eight times. Webber couldn’t say how many rounds were in his weapon’s magazine when he fired, but that he did so because he was “scared for (his) safety and the safety of Officer (John) Matula,” Webber told an investigator.

A Lorain County grand jury declined to indict the officers and they were cleared to return to duty, the Chronicle reported in November 2013.

Alleged harrassment

On Dec. 2, 2010, Elyria police supervisors were made aware of multiple posters found in the Community Policing Room at the police station, a room used by patrol officers to write reports.

The hand-made drawings included a caricature of Whitely with the words “he who looks at floor” written on it and a drawing of “a Native female with a bone in her nose, holding a spear in one hand, a ballistic vest with ‘Police 027’ in the other hand and ‘No CT (court time) for you’ printed at the top of the page,” a supervisor’s report included in the personnel file stated. The 027 was the unit number assigned to Sgt. Diamalen Bermudez.

Whitely requested an investigation into who posted the items as a possible violation of the city’s ordinance on workplace violence prevention. Both Webber and then-patrolman (now Lt.) Michael Groomes later “voluntarily admitted to Sgt. Bermudez that they were responsible for the drawings,” according to Capt. Daniel Jaykel’s investigation.

Groomes and Webber explained they both were “frustrated with the department’s vehicles and equipment,” and that Webber showed it by drawing the “Tiki god,” while Groomes wrote the “027,” but denied it was because he was angry Bermudez had denied him court time off later that month, according to a report.

Bermudez told Jaykel “she was not offended by the drawing of the Native female that (officer) Webber referred to as a ‘Tiki’ god,” according to the captain’s report.

The full report was sent to Whitely, then forwarded to the Safety Service Director’s office, but no final disposition was included in Webber’s personnel file.

Excessive force claim

In July 2010, Webber was cleared of wrongdoing by an internal investigation sparked by a 17-year-old’s contention after his June 12, 2010, arrest and transport to the Lorain County Juvenile Detention Home, that Webber used excessive force when he smeared pepper spray in the boy’s eyes, nose and mouth during a struggle.

An investigation revealed the juvenile was sprayed after he refused to listen to staff members and threatened to fight. When the spray did not seem to have an effect, Webber smeared the spray in the boy’s eyes and nose, and the boy complied with police orders.

Webber’s supervisor did not find any violations of policies or procedures, instead finding Webber followed his training to end the struggle and in the process “prevented injuries” to himself and Detention Home staff, according to a July 9, 2010, report.

Second officer

The other officer involved in the Oct. 30 shooting, Anthony Weber, was hired by Elyria police in August 2014. He served as a combat medic and corpsman in the U.S. Navy from 2008 to 2012, and his personnel file contains no disciplinary history.

It does contain a commendation letter from a civilian, Donald Peak, who wrote that Weber “potentially saved my life” July 20, 2015, during a criminal justice class at Cuyahoga Community College.

Weber called EMS and campus police after seeing symptoms of a heart emergency, and first responders found Peak’s heart rate had dropped to 37, according to Peak’s letter.

Contact Dave O’Brien at (440) 329-7129 or do’ Follow him at @daveobrienCT on Twitter.

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