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Attorney General Yost Honors the Best of Ohio Law Enforcement at 2021 Conference


(COLUMBUS, Ohio) — Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost today recognized the significant contributions of numerous public safety officers and one civilian as part of his annual Law Enforcement Conference.  

“There are officers all over Ohio who heroically serve our communities every day and are the backbone of the civil society we all enjoy,” Yost said. “The officers being honored represent the best of those heroes, and I am proud of their dedication to protecting the unprotected.”

The 2021 Law Enforcement Conference, held virtually, featured workshops on various topical issues, including how to lead during trying times and understanding federal hate-crime statutes. Each year during the event, the attorney general bestows the Distinguished Law Enforcement Awards, presented in seven categories.

The 2021 awards and recipients were:

Distinguished Law Enforcement Lifetime Achievement Award

Retired Cmdr. Marvin Cross, Cleveland Division of Police

During his 24 years with the department, Cmdr. Cross spent 14 years on the fugitive unit, developing a tracking system that reduced arrest costs by 22% and resulted in the capture of 2,500 fugitives.

As a member of the recruiting team, he developed strategies and education programs that led to a 30% increase in minority applicants and a 20% increase on entrance-exam scores. In other units, he supervised 21 mini-stations and created programs that reduced school violence by 30% and hate crimes by 40%.

But Cmdr. Cross went above and beyond the duties that come with the badge. He volunteered as an assistant coach for the Greater Cleveland Schools All-Stars basketball team for 17 years, helping 12- and 13-year-old boys to build friendships beyond their neighborhoods. He created a bookbag giveaway and Christmas toy drive; worked to develop younger officers; and helped lead the Black Shield Police Association, an advocacy group for minority officers.

Distinguished Civilian Leadership Award

Victoria Allen, Youngstown Crime Stoppers

When Allen unexpectedly passed away last month, the world lost a superhero. The married mother of three and mother-in-spirit to dozens more led one of the most active Block Watches in Youngstown as well as Crime Stoppers of Greater Youngstown and the South Avenue Area Neighborhood Development Initiative (SAANDI).

City leaders and law enforcement officers knew her well, not only for welcoming them into her home and offering to share home-cooked meals but also for spending countless unpaid hours organizing mass events to unite the community. She regularly planned neighborhood holiday celebrations, parades and dinners; block parties that drew more than 1,000 people; donation drives; and other help for needy families.

No fewer than nine police officers and a county judge nominated Allen for this award, with multiple submissions mentioning her work locating missing children, lost or wandering elders, and wanted fugitives; gathering information about crimes; and helping to calm crowds that gather at the scene of violent crimes.

Allen, a customer-support supervisor at State Alarms Systems for 24 years, was a respected community leader sought out by most everyone when they needed any kind of help.

Attorney General Yost was so impressed by Allen, he renamed this award in her honor.

Distinguished Law Enforcement Community Service Award

Chief Arthur L. Fowler Jr., Wintersville Police Department

Chief Fowler serves his community as a coach for the Indian Creek Chiefs youth football program and treasurer for the league. He serves as treasurer of the Ohio Valley Football League, a board member for the child advocacy center A Caring Place, and a mentor for local at-risk youth. All of these good deeds create bridges to the younger generation and provide them the best impression of law enforcement.

But helping kids is not the only cause that moves Chief Fowler to volunteer. He is also a member of the Jefferson County I-Team for Prevention of Elderly Abuse and has been honored by the Adult Protective Unit of Jefferson County Job and Family Services for his efforts to prevent elderly abuse and educate the public.

Distinguished Law Enforcement Training Award

Chief Jerome Klue, Akron Children’s Hospital Police Department

The impact of Chief Klue’s career as a certified trainer for OPOTC and the National Emergency Communications Institute cannot be overstated. He led train-the-trainer courses and helps 911 operators improve at their jobs. He has taught basic and advanced police training, college-level criminal justice classes and traffic safety for community members. He also helped to create the state training framework for school resource officers.

Since his early years on the job, Klue has pushed the importance of Crisis Intervention Training, which arms officers with de-escalation techniques and skills to aid those suffering a mental-health crisis. As part of the Summit County Police Chiefs’ Association, Chief Klue worked with mental-health experts to build a CIT program for all peace officers in the county, then made implementation possible by creating buy-in and finding a way to fund it.

Mark Losey Distinguished Law Enforcement Service Award

Detective Todd Comer, Miami Township Police Department

A member of the Miami Township Police Department in Montgomery County since 1988, Detective Comer has become the “go-to” investigator for intense homicide, child abuse and sex assault cases. His meticulous approach and dedication result in justice served, as well as a respected reputation.

Outside of his work hours, Detective Comer has sought to make life better for youngsters. For seven years, he volunteered at the Dayton-based Ronald McDonald House Charities, serving as a handyman, organizing donations and doing whatever else the leaders and families of sick children needed. A manager called him the most reliable of volunteers.

For three years, Detective Comer volunteered with the Dayton Victory Project, a faith-based, after-school nonprofit serving disengaged teenage boys in the inner city. The detective provided monthly meals, with no regard for the personal cost, to 50 or so teens, and he stayed after eating to mentor them. These young men respected Detective Comer because he earned the right to be heard, and they listened.

Distinguished Law Enforcement Group Achievement Award

Pike County Rhoden Murder Task Force

In the five years after eight members of the Rhoden family were killed in Pike County, local and state investigators poured thousands of hours into finding those responsible. More than 1,100 tips were cleared; 500 interviews completed; 700 pieces of evidence tested; and 500 subpoenas, search warrants and court orders requested.

The dogged efforts led investigators to suspect and arrest another family: the Wagners, who had lived in Pike County at the time of the murders and then moved to Alaska.

In the spring, Jake Wagner, 28, pleaded guilty to all eight murders, including that of the 19-year-old mother of his daughter. Jake, who will spend the rest of his life in prison, has been cooperating with prosecutors and confirmed that the heinous plot was sparked by a custody dispute.

And last month, his mother, Angela Wagner, also pleaded guilty for her role in plotting the massacre. Her son George Wagner IV and her husband, George “Billy” Wagner, are awaiting trial.

Members of the task force include:

Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation

Special Agent Ryan Scheiderer (lead agent)

Special Agent Supervisor Kevin Barbeau

Special Agent Jennifer Comisford

Special Agent Supervisor Roger Davis

Forensic Scientist Suzanne Elliott

Criminal Intelligence Analyst Julia Eveslage

Criminal Intelligence Supervisor Dana Forney

Special Agent Todd Fortner

Special Agent James Gore

Special Agent Shane Hanshaw

Special Agent Chadwick Holcomb

Special Agent Jonathan Jenkins

Special Agent Supervisor William Jones

Forensic Accountant Michael Kaizar

Victim Advocate Cindy Kuhr

Criminal Intelligence Analyst Jennifer Lester

Special Agent James Mulford

Special Agent Perry Roeser

Special Agent Supervisor Justin Root

DNA Lab Director Kristen Slaper

Special Agent Richard Ward

Forensic Scientist Matthew White

Formerly of BCI/Attorney General’s Office

Special Agent Stephfon Daniels

Special Agent Scott Fitch

Special Agent Seth Hagaman 

Assistant Superintendent Karen Huey

Special Agent Cornelius McGrady

Computer Forensic Analyst Jonathan Robbins

Superintendent Thomas Stickrath

Special Agent-in-Charge Benjamin Suver

Special Agent Supervisor Michael Trout

Special Agent Bryan White

Deputy Attorney General for Law Enforcement Stephen Schumaker

Local Sheriff’s Offices

Maj. Alan Lewis (co-lead investigator) — Ross County, formerly of Pike County

Maj. Timothy Dickerson — formerly of Pike County


Lead Prosecutor Angie Canepa

Pike County Prosecutor Robert Junk

Assistant Prosecutor Andy Wilson

Distinguished Law Enforcement Valor Award

Officers Heather Bauer, Sean Connor and Michael Guarnieri, Norton Police Department

When a passer-by called officers to the house in the Summit County city of Norton, flames were already licking out of the front windows. Officers Bauer, Connor and Guarnieri arrived and, not knowing whether anyone was home, circled to the back and broke through a steel door.

Inside, they found a locked first-floor bedroom. When they couldn’t bust through the door, Officer Connor forced it off its hinges, essentially opening the door backward. Shocked awake were an 82-year-old man and a 78-year-old woman; the officers and a newly arrived firefighter helped them to safety.

The disoriented couple told the responders that the woman’s 69-year-old brother lived on the second floor, and Officers Connor and Guarnieri rushed back inside. They tried multiple times to reach him — the quickly worsening conditions blocked each attempt — until Officer-in-Charge Bauer ordered them to exit the home for their own safety.

The brother died of smoke inhalation, and the husband was hospitalized and recovered. But surely, if it hadn’t been for the officers, who didn’t hesitate to put their own lives on the line, all three residents would have perished.

Luke Sullivan: 614-270-2662


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