October 23, 2014

Elyria
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Pair of Lorain cops disciplined

LORAIN — Two police officers have been disciplined for their handling of a July incident in which they gave a man suspected of breaking into a woman’s home a ride home instead of arresting him.

In Police Department documents released Thursday relating to the case, Sgt. Les Palmer and Patrol Officer Matt Bonkoski were issued disciplinary letters by division commander Lt. Roger Watkins.

Palmer was issued a written warning that said he failed to offer a more direct type of supervision of Bonkoski during the incident, which a review of the situation concluded called for an arrest on some type of charge ranging from criminal trespass to disorderly conduct by intoxication to burglary.

Bonkoski was counseled to keep the radio in his cruiser at an appropriate audio level in the future to be able to hear “all pertinent information available to you when responding to calls for service.”

The actions were in line with recommendations first made by Police Chief Cel Rivera.

A departmental investigation of the July 30 incident focused on the officers’ actions in responding to the home of a woman who reported a man was trying to get inside her house.

Bonkoski located the suspect, identified as Isaac Buxton, shortly after reaching the scene, but instead of arresting him for trespassing or burglary, the policeman gave the man a ride to his home on a nearby street, believing the man, who was intoxicated, mistakenly went to the woman’s house.

Police documents said Bonkoski had been told by the woman that Buxton was intoxicated and that he had been ordered to leave her property several times.

Bonkoski later said he never heard a police dispatcher broadcast information about the suspect having entered the woman’s home, where he was ordered at gunpoint to leave, and that the woman never told him those details when he interviewed her at her home, according to police documents.

Palmer, meanwhile, was found to have improperly handled the incident with Bonkoski, who had briefed Palmer that the man was only “an unwanted male” instead of an actual burglary suspect.

The investigation further stated it was unclear whether Bonkoski heard the police broadcast information, while Palmer acknowledged by radio that he was aware of the man having entered the home and being held at gunpoint by the female resident.

Palmer told investigators that he did not tell Bonkoski about the radio traffic or insist on an arrest because he was “more focused” on the fact Bonkoski had the man stopped.

Both officers were also found to have violated departmental rules by failing to file a report on the incident.

A burglary charge filed later against Buxton from the July 30 incident was subsequently dismissed.

Contact Steve Fogarty at 329-7146 or sfogarty@chroniclet.com.