WARREN, Ohio (WYTV) – Warren Police Chief Eric Merkel said the officer accused of lying about a shooting in Howland is not a good representation of the city’s police department.
Merkel said allegations that Officer Noah Linnen fabricated a story about being shot at by a black man is a set back to department’s relations with the community.
According to investigators in Howland, after Linnen reported that he was shot at during a robbery attempt in the township, he then changed his story multiple times, leading them to believe that he was lying about what happened.
More than 50 officers from neighboring communities surrounded the area, looking for a suspect described by Linnen as a black man in a dark-colored SUV. Merkel admitted that officers pulled over several men matching that description because they believed that the report was real.
He called Linnen’s actions disgusting and a “huge setback” to the police department’s work in the community.
“It’s outrageous; make no bones about that,” Merkel said.
Linnen is facing charges of tampering with evidence, falsification, interrupting public service and inducing panic.
Investigators say Linnen’s last story was that he fabricated the scene, making it look like a robbery and shootout, because he fired his gun at another vehicle that had swerved toward his car. He told police that he was angry at the driver for nearly hitting his car, according to an affidavit read during a Wednesday morning press conference.
He was off-duty at the time.
Investigators say after realizing what he had done, he shot at his own car because he was worried about being disciplined.
Merkel said Linnen had been a stand-out officer and had no history of disciplinary issues before. He said there was no reason at the time for officers not to believe his initial report.
“I want to publicly apologize to our community,” Merkel said.
Warren Mayor Doug Franklin said he is upset that race was injected into the incident. He said, however, the charges against Linnen show that the system works.
“We have a lot of work to do moving forward, but I believe in the men and women in this department and also in the community that have the best interest of the community in their hearts,” Franklin said.
Linnen is scheduled to be back in court Feb. 20.