TROTWOOD - A veteran Day-ton undercover police officer investigating gang activity was involved in a gunfight Saturday morning that left him and a 21-year-old suspect seriously injured.
The wounded officer had been assigned to an FBI task force targeting gangs, gang violence and gang-related drug activity; and Trotwood City Manager Mike Lucking said Trotwood and Dayton police and the FBI were involved in "looking into gang activity" in the area of the shooting.
Late Saturday, there were more questions than answers as top law enforcement officials scrambled to figure out how the shooting happened and why.
At least one other person is apparently involved in the shooting, but police are not releasing names or details.
However, when asked if a Trot-wood officer had been placed on paid administrative leave, Lucking said, "if not already, it will be soon. Any time an officer discharges his weapon in the line of duty, he or she is put on administrative leave, pending an internal investigation."
The undercover officer and suspect were taken to Miami Valley Hospital, and both were listed in serious but stable condition Saturday night, according to the Montgomery County Sheriff's Office, which is overseeing the shooting investigation.
Since 2008, local and federal authorities have coordinated their efforts to suppress gang problems, and the Dayton Daily News has tracked their results since the beginning. In 2011, a Daily News study found 10 of Dayton's 37 homicides involved group or gang members either as victims or attackers. Part of the problem is some gangs' involvement in the heroin trade, a criminal enterprise that has spread to the suburbs and rural areas of the Miami Valley.
As yet, no official explanation has been given for Saturday's sequence of events or who fired first. But, here is what is known:
Shortly after noon, the Montgomery County Sheriff's Office released a statement saying Trot-wood police responded to a report of a fight at 4155 Salem Ave. They arrived at the parking lot of Leo's II bar around 1:30 a.m. The release said a short foot chase ensued in which several shots were fired, leaving an officer and suspect both hit.
The sheriff's office is investigating at the request of Trotwood Police Chief Quincy Pope, according to Lucking. Dayton Police Chief Richard Biehl said it would be inappropriate for him to comment on the sheriff's investigation.
Biehl, who is out of town, said he has contacted Sheriff Phil Plummer and has been briefed on the shooting by Dayton Assistant Police Chief Mark Hess and Day-ton City Manager Tim Riordan. Plummer said the investigation is continuing but declined to make a statement. Neither Hess nor Riordan would comment.
The Daily News learned the identity of the wounded officer, but agreed to withhold his name.
The wounded officer, who was not wearing a bullet-resistant vest because of his assignment, was shot in the upper torso. The officer is a 20-year veteran of the force who has spent the past several years working undercover with the federal, state and local Safe Streets Task Force. The FBI has made gang activity in southwest Ohio one of its priorities.
"The nature of his job assignment is very dangerous," said Lt. Randy Beane, president of the Dayton Fraternal Order of Police. He said through the years, a number of officers have been shot and returned to duty. The last fatality was in 2002 from a 2000 shooting.
The wounded officer had been involved in the investigation of the Booby Hill Gang. The Daily News reported that on March 19, a federal grand jury handed up indictments of seven suspected gang members on charges of heroin distribution. The indictments were the result of a Safe Streets investigation handled, in part, by the wounded undercover officer. Many of those indicted had violent criminal records.
Heroin has become a drug of choice these days because of its high purity, low price and accessibility, with Dayton emerging as a major distribution point, narcotics officers say. A gel cap of heroin sells for $10 on Dayton streets.
Dayton Mayor Gary Leitzell said he hadn't received any details of Saturday's shooting. "I've gotten texts from the city manager that the officer has lost a lot of blood, but I have no details," he said. Trotwood elected officials also had no information on the shootings.
Trotwood police Capt. John Porter said he could not release any information about the shooting, but did say Leo's II "is a problem bar. There is a high incidence of activity at that bar. This was not in the bar. This was in the parking lot, stemming from activity in the bar.
"Nothing is conclusive. We just don't know ... It's too early to speculate on anything that happened. There are still too many unanswered questions right now," Porter said.
Prior to the shooting, police radio traffic indicated officers were searching for "an armed and dangerous" suspect several blocks south of Leo's II bar, near the shooting scene. The suspect had bailed from a car stopped by police at Gettysburg Avenue and Free Pike around 1:20 a.m. A second man in the car was taken into custody and identified as an alleged gang member, according to radio traffic.
Ten minutes later, officers from numerous departments responded to the scene when dispatchers broadcasted a "Signal 99," which indicated an officer in trouble. There were reports of shots being fired, followed by the call "officer down."
There were reports of a large crowd outside of Leo's II. Bar owner Pat Douglas, however, said the shooting did not involve the bar. She claimed it did not happen inside the bar or on her property.
She said there appeared to be some sort of police sting happening on Salem Avenue.
Adrion Hawes, Leo's manager, said he was outside in the parking lot talking with guards from Moonlight Security hired to work at the club. Hawes said he did not hear the shots fired, but that the guards, who he said were off-duty police officers, heard about the shooting over their radios and ran to help.
The club has security cameras all around the building. Hawes said he gave his hard drive, with the images from the cameras, to investigators.
The shooting happened closer to a drive- through and a closed-up cellular store that are in the same strip mall as Leo's, Hawes said.
"The parking lot was full, but there was nothing going on in the parking lot," he said. "The guys weren't even on our property."
In 2000, Dayton Officer Mary Beall was shot by a suspect she was attempting to negotiate into dropping his firearm. She died two years later as a result of her wounds.
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