O'Connell can't recall

Detective's assessment didn't include interviews with officers. Read his deposition here.
Feb 12, 2014


Detective Sean O'Connell appears to have conducted an administrative review for the Fremont Police Department immediately after the death of Craig Burdine at the Sandusky County jail in 2007.

But the detective didn't interview the officers involved and had trouble recalling details of his review when he was deposed about it three years later. 

"Do I recall the specifics? No. Did I read their reports? Yes. Was I comfortable with the way the reports read? Absolutely," O'Connell testified. "I did not find the need to go back and conduct another interview on the officers involved when they've already completed a report that I felt was thorough and complete and was sufficient for my investigation." 

Click here to read O'Connell's deposition

At the time, O'Connell was a Fremont police detective. His report appears to be a kind of risk assessment for whether Fremont officers who arrested Burdine and brought him to the jail could be found culpable for any wrongdoing in his death. 

He was not investigating how Burdine died, O'Connell said, because that was being looked at by the sheriff's office since jail guards had taken custody from the Fremont police by that time. He talked with then sheriff's captain Kyle Overmyer and others at the sheriff's office about their investigation but didn't know, or remember, anything about it, he said. 

O'Connell also said he asked Overmyer and sheriff David Gangwer for video surveillance from inside the jail several times but eventually gave up on getting any video that might have existed, or answers from either man as to why it wasn't being provided or or otherwise confirmed that video existed. He figured he didn't need the jail video, O'Connell said, and let it go. 

Question: "You never considered the possibility of foul play by your officers?"
O'Connell: "I did not."
Question: "You never considered foul play as a possibility by the Sandusky County sheriff's personnel?"
O'Connell: "I didn't even give that a thought."
Question: "And why didn't you give that a thought?"
O'Connell: "Because that's their investigation. What happened out there in the jail between the jailers and Mr. Burdine that's between them. Let them do their investigation."

At one point during the deposition O'Connell appears to become exasperated by the questions: 

Question: "What did (officer) Daniels tell you occurred in the changing room (inside the jail)?" 
O'Connell: "I don't know. I don't recall. I'd have to go back." 
Question: "Did he tell you what occurred in the changing room?" 
O'Connell: "I don't recall the specifics, sir. I'd have to go back and look at the reports. I remember reading the reports." 
Question: "You made that clear, you've said that several times, I'm talking about you speaking with them."
O'Connell: "OK, sir, you've asked me that question 10 times and I've asked — answered that I do not know."

But O'Connell was clear about his thoughts on the death of Craig Burdine.

"My conclusion is that our officers done no wrong based on the circumstances involving Mr. Burdine's demeanor that particular night," O'Connell testified.

Click here to read related articles

O'Connell also said he and Sandusky County Sheriff Kyle Overmyer had a strong working partnership back in 2007 when O'Connell was a Fremont police detective and Overmyer was a captain with the sheriff's office. Overmyer became sheriff in 2008 after Gangwer died suddenly and he hired O'Connell in 2012 after O'Connell retired from the Fremont Police Department. 

"We did a lot of drug work for the county back in the day," O'Connell said during the deposition taken on Oct. 4, 2010, related to a wrongful death lawsuit filed by the Craig Burdine's family. 

O'Connell did the heavy lifting, however, when it came to dealing with then Sheriff Gangwer. 

"Kyle (Overmyer) at the time was one of these captains where, I hate to use the word, my right-hand man so to speak, but I'm the one that did the bulk of the work," O'Connell testified. 

Burdine died after being brought to the Sandusky County Jail on Aug. 7, 2007. The county contends he died a sudden death due to drug and alcohol intoxication, but Burdine's family and a renowned coroner who reviewed the autopsy reports and witness statements contends he was the victim of homicide. Burdine suffocated due to the fractured cartilage in his neck suffered when he was being restrained by jail guards or some other time earlier.  

Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine has been conducting a criminal investigation since August, triggered after Craig Burdine's father, Jess Burdine pressed for a criminal probe. A spokesman for the AG said local officials never conducted a criminal investigation after Burdine's death. 

O'Connell disagrees.

"There was a very thorough investigation done by the Fremont Police Department," he told the Register last week after the AG's office stated there was no prior criminal probe.  

Between the Lines Live

Watch at noon Thursday, Feb. 13 at sanduskyregister.com with guests Jess Burdine, Craig Burdine's father, and his other son, Eric Burdine. Post questions for them in the comments section. 


Little Giant

This story is disturbing on so many levels. Let me get this straight.... a Fremont detective investigates a death and asks the sheriff department for a video and the sheriff department fails to comply and then a couple of years later this detective retires from Fremont and joins the sheriff department that he investigated? With all the trouble in Sandusky County the Attorney General should probably just set up an office in Sandusky County because they are in need of a clean up!

Carlos Danger

STOP THE PRESSES!!! Just in . . . Detective can't remember exactly what someone told him about an incident that happened over three years prior without reviewing his reports or notes!!! Definitely front page headline news in my opinion!

Peninsula Pundit

But he still had the paper reports he generated at the time, but did not bring the reports to this inquiry for reference? He knows what he's going to court for, but specifically does not bring those reports for reference. And then testifies he can't recall without his reports or notes. How convenient!
Carlos, you must be an oinker to defend this hokum.

Carlos Danger

Pundit, I admit I am overweight and not very attractive, but "oinker," now that's not very nice at all :(  By the way, I can't wait for the Register's next Breaking Story about O'Connell, like what Facebook page his wife "liked" today, or where his dog pooped last night.

Peninsula Pundit

oinker = pig = cop.
No offense to your pulchritude was intended.

Matt Westerhold

The answer to the question was either, 'Yes" or "No," Carlos. The lawyer was not asking O'Connell to recall what the officer told him; he was asking the detective if he talked to the officer. You're confusing the question and the answer.  


to quote the church lady, "how convenient"..


I'm pretty sure a large amount of people would not be able to remember a conversation that happened 3 years before. The headline makes this story seem a little one sided after you read the article in it's entirety.

Peninsula Pundit

Another bad cop replies.
He knew what he was being called to testify about and did not bring his notes and reports to the hearing? As he has attended judicial proceedings many times before in his capacity as 'Law Enforcement', he wouldknow to bring any pertinent reports or notes on the case.
But here, he doesn't bother and then hides behind 'I do not recall.'
Crooked cops defending crooked cops.
There is a lot of that going on in this area.


How predictable of you to assume that. I am NOT a cop you tool. All those notes you're referring to would have been turned over already, so why didn't the person show O'Connell the reports? Works both ways here. If there was something in the report that was questionable, he could easily point it out and ask if he said that.


Can not remember yeh right. My uncle was a detective until he retired and he remembered alot of stuff from a couple of years to help out when investigated. He does not want to remember or told not to say anything.


Maybe the Sandusky Register would like to reprint the whole story. Like why was this guy arrested. Wasn't he at a party where he was intoxicated and/or using drugs? Wasn't there an incident at the party where he sustained a head injury? These have been rumors surrounding this story. Do a good reporting job for us a dig deeper don't just blame law enforcement and stop there.

Peninsula Pundit

You are making an improper presumption of guilt on someone who cannot defend himself.
If a cop doesn't bring specific notes and reports to a hearing, you'll excuse that.
Then ask the paper to dig deeper for 'facts.'
The fact is the man would not have survived a ride to the jail with fractured cartilage in his airway. The coroners report cites that as cause of death. He would have demonstrated difficulty in breathing upon his arrival at the jail and you would presume the jailers, instead of beating him, would've called for medical assistance. No matter what happened before he arrived at the jail, the point of investigation is what happened at the jail.
Where's the video tape?
That would provide more 'facts' for you than any further 'digging deeper' by the Register.
I can't believe reasonable people would post tripe such as this.
The only folks that would raise any defense for this reprehensible behavior are cops who are as crooked as this detective is.


Whoa calm down there. I am just asking for a recap of the events that had led up to this tragic incident. Many times there are injuries to people that are not quite serious enough to cause someone's death but after another incident could be a contributing factor.

For example someone being shot and a bullet could be lodged in their body permantly. Then they could be in an auto accident where the bullet becomes dislodged and travels to another part of their body causing their death. So what would be the cause of death, the bullet or the traffic accident?

I am just trying to get a good understanding of what actually happened as there have been rumors for years regarding this incident.


The coroners report does NOT cite that as cause of death. Cause of death was attributed to excited delirium.

Matt Westerhold

Thanks jacksonbrown. You can link to that previous coverage here at sanduskyregister.com. The aspects of this story you mention have been reported numerous times in previous articles. 


Thanks for the link.

Carlos Danger

Matt, Here's a thought. How about posting the full deposition transcripts of all the witnesses who were actually there when this incident happened as well as the deposition of Dr. Baden, so your readers can see for themselves what he and the others actually said.  I'm sure you can get them from the same source.

Matt Westerhold

The depositions for Baden, Beisser and O'Connell all have been posted already Carlos. Other depositions likely will get posted as they are reviewed and as the state investigation moves forward. If you want to review the previous depositions, click here. 

Carlos Danger

Thank you. Looking forward to reading what people who were actually there had to say about what happened.

Slats Grobnik

Where's the rest of the deposition?