Sheriff claims proper protocol not followed in alerting homicide task force

WELLSVILLE – Members of the county’s homicide task force (HTF) responded to a fatal shooting in the village Tuesday night, but Sheriff Ray Stone said the proper procedure was not followed in getting them there.

After reading that the task force was on the scene at the shooting of Taru Smith, 36, Lorain, Stone contacted the paper to say the task force was not there.

When advised that detectives from East Liverpool, Liverpool Township, Lisbon, Salem and Columbiana were, in fact, on the scene, Stone said, “They never notified us to (call out) the homicide task force,” Stone said, explaining that the proper protocol is to contact either the sheriff’s department or East Palestine’s police department so an all-call can be placed.

“Several departments were not called,” Stone said, adding it appeared Wellsville Lt. Ed Wilson and patrolman Marsha Eisenhart decided to “pick and choose” which detectives to call, calling each detective individually.

“They know the protocol,” Stone said.

Eisenhart confirmed what Stone said was true: She did call individual members of the HTF after speaking to both county Prosecutor Bob Herron and a sheriff’s dispatcher.

“I told (Herron) we had plenty of help, and he said we should get some of the guys from the HTF. We didn’t need 20 or 40 officers,” she said, saying she called for Detective Don Fickes from East Liverpool, who was closest; Detective Justin Wright from Liverpool Township, who once worked on the Wellsville department; Detective Char Daub from Lisbon since she was next closest; and Detective Dave Talbert from Salem.

“We could have banged them all out, but we would have had to send some of them home,” Eisenhart said.

“I’m glad those guys came down,” Eisenhart said of the detectives who responded.

According to the policy established with the HTF formation, it is up to the discretion of the department chief to decide whether or not to seek activation of the task force.

Stone said Wellsville officers also declined the assistance of his uniformed deputies, but Eisenhart said she spoke with a sheriff’s dispatcher, who asked if they needed anything and she said, “Not right now.”

According to Eisenhart, one deputy told a Wellsville officer he was not going to respond to the scene.

Stone also expressed his displeasure at no county-wide alert being given to watch for the car the alleged shooter was driving, saying he “wasn’t too keen about that” when no “be on the lookout” (BOLO) was issued.

“Any officer could have stopped that car and not known that driver was just involved in a homicide,” Stone complained.

Eisenhart explained she and the detectives from the HTF discussed issuing a BOLO but decided against it since the description of the vehicle was sketchy and no license plate number was known.