A bruised ego.
That's what led to the arrest of former Sandusky police lieutenant Melvin D. Burns Jr. more than seven months ago, his attorney told jurors.
Burns, 46, appeared Thursday in Port Clinton Municipal Court for the first portion of a two-day trial on charges of persistent disorderly conduct and criminal trespassing.
The 19-year police force veteran was arrested in June near the Beer Barrel Saloon during a visit to Put-in-Bay. Officers said he became upset and refused to comply with orders after his stepson was denied access to the bar.
Two months later Burns was fired from his job. Sandusky police Chief Kim Nuesse asked two outside agencies to investigate Burns' off-duty conduct. The investigations revealed Burns failed to follow department policy.
In opening arguments attorney Thomas DeBacco said "a police officer willing to lie to support the fragile ego of his partners" led to Burns' arrest.
In the incident report Put-in-Bay police said Burns showed his Sandusky police ID and tried to pull rank.
The report said Burns told officers, "Do you know who I am? You can't take me. Let me see you take me." Police said Burns repeatedly pushed an officer, saying, "What are you gonna do about it? I am a lieutenant. You're a nobody sergeant."
Burns and his wife were on the island to celebrate their 25th wedding anniversary along with other family members, DeBacco said.
"His life came to an abrupt end because of fragile ego," DeBacco told jurors. "The moment he told them he was a police lieutenant. They misinterpreted it."
Shortly after the incident Put-in-Bay police Chief Robert Lampela called Sandusky police to report the arrest, DeBacco said.
"He had a trophy and wanted to flaunt it," DeBacco said.
Burns, wearing dress pants and a collared shirt, appeared calm throughout the proceedings.
In her opening argument, prosecutor Jodie Schumacher described Burns as someone who lost perspective during the incident.
"He was frustrated, he was mad, he was ticked off, he lost control," she said. "He threw out the fact that he holds a certain rank and that he should be listened to."
Several witnesses testified Thursday, including bar security guard Chris Incorvaia, who said Burns made threats on his life just before police were called.
"He started shouting at me," Incorvaia said. "He threatened to kill me."
Put-in-Bay police Det. Jay-Michael Adams, who has worked on the island since 2003, testified Burns was aggressive and belligerent the night of his arrest.
"He was belittling, calling the officers jokes," he said. "It's not anything I've ever heard from police officers who have come up to the island drinking before."
More testimony is expected today in the trial. Judge Frederick C. Hany II is presiding.