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Woman files lawsuit against Willard Police

Jessica Cuffman • Dec 21, 2013 at 8:50 AM

A Toledo woman who suffered a shot to the foot when Willard police attempted to serve a search warrant almost a year ago is now suing the department for damages.

Erica Devlin, 20, was leaving a home in the 600 block of Pleasant St. on Dec. 19, 2012, when she saw Willard police officers approaching the home. One of the officers, Brian Slone, ordered her to the ground and she complied, getting to her knees. But as officers got closer to the home, another man standing outside, Kyle Zarcone, spotted police and ran inside.

Then chaos erupted.

When two pit bulls came running out of the front door, Slone, along with Willard Officer Jeremy Draper, and Greenwich police Officer Sean Nolen, started firing shots at the dogs.

Draper tripped as he backed up, falling on top of Devlin, and the dogs made their escape.

When the dust cleared, officers had fired several shots. Investigators later determined Nolen had triggered four of them. One of them, from a 9mm gun, struck Devlin in the foot.    “Upon information and belief, it was a gunshot from Defendant Officer Nolen that struck Plaintiff,” Devlin’s Toledo attorney, James Silk, wrote in the lawsuit.

Nearly a year to the day, Devlin’s attorney filed a lawsuit on her behalf in the U.S. Northern District Court in Toledo, claiming personal injury and seeking more than $25,000 in damages.

An Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation report released four months after the incident said the bullet fragments found in Devlin’s foot could have come from Nolen’s gun, but scientists couldn’t tell for sure.

None of the three officers were disciplined for the incident, though the two Willard officers were placed on administrative duties while the BCI investigation was pending.

In following through on the warrant, police seized drugs, drug paraphernalia and $556 from inside a safe.

Officers filed charges against Zarcone, 20, and another man inside the home, Anthony Hicks, 20, but both cases stalled out in court when prosecutors didn’t follow through on the charges.

Technically, Hicks’ case remains on the docket in Huron County Common Pleas Court, but records show it will be dismissed if no action is taken by the state before Dec. 27.

Devlin’s lawsuit alleges negligence on the part of all three officers, and failure of the Willard and Greenwich police departments to properly follow at least four department policies.

“Officers Draper, Slone, and Nolen, had a duty to act prudently and with reasonable care and otherwise avoid the use of unnecessary, unreasonable, and excessive and/ or deadly force,” according to the lawsuit.

The policy infractions included in the lawsuit:

• Failure to properly screen, supervise and otherwise control police officers who were known or should have been known to engage in use of excessive force and deadly force.

• Failure to have and implement procedures and training in the use of deadly force and failing to incorporate training for officers in use of firearms.

• Failure to properly screen, supervise and otherwise provide training to police officers who are asked to assist in other agencies’ operations.

• Failure to comply with provisions of a mutual aid agreement.

Devlin was an innocent bystander, according to court documents, and the officers “acted so recklessly as to demonstrate substantial lack of concern as to whether injury or death would result”

Willard police Chief Mark Holden did not return calls seeking comment Friday.

In a past interview with the Register, Greenwich police Chief Steve Dorsey said Nolen followed all procedures.

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