MIDDLETOWN — In the aftermath of a stolen police cruiser that was rammed into another officer’s cruiser Thursday morning, Middletown police will install anti-theft devices in its fleet of vehicles, according to the Journal-News.
Major David Birk said that when officers leave their cruisers, they will activate the anti-theft mechanism that will lock the transmission. The vehicles won’t move until the hidden button is pushed by the driver, he said
The Ohio State Highway Patrol uses similar anti-theft devices in its cruisers, Birk said.
Each device costs between $109 and $150, “cost effective” compared to replacing a cruiser, according to Birk.
The department has had three cruisers stolen in the last 22 years, including in 1997 and 2011, Birk said.
The police department has 11 Ford Explorers and 50 police vehicles, including cruisers for police officers, K-9 officers, detectives and narcotics, according to city officials.
On Thursday morning, two 2018 Ford Explorer cruisers, each valued at $37,000, including police upgrades, were severely damaged during an incident. Jason Cooper, 49, of Middletown, allegedly stole a police cruiser, then “intentionally” crashed into a cruiser driven by Officer Ryan Morgan, who was responding to a disturbance call in the 100 block of Bavarian Street, police said.
A female called 911 at 12:54 a.m. Thursday and reported her boyfriend, later identified as Cooper, was “extremely drunk,” slamming doors, yelling and cursing. When an officer arrived, the 911 caller stood on the second-floor apartment balcony and told the officer her boyfriend was hiding in the bushes.
Cooper allegedly came out from behind the bushes and displayed a knife to the officer, Patrick Glassburn. Cooper was listening to the police scanner on his cell phone and intended to “ambush” the officer, Middletown Police Chief Rodney Muterspaw said. Cooper had plenty of time to flee before officers arrived, and once he stole the cruiser, his “intent was to do some harm” to an officer, according to Birk.
Glassburn told Cooper to drop what he was carrying, and when he refused, he was shocked by Glassburn’s taser. That was ineffective.
Birk said the scenario could have ended “much worse” if not for the proper judgment shown by Glassburn, 35, who was hired by the department 15 months ago. Before working in Middletown, Glassburn was a police officer in a smaller community, Birk said.
He said Glassburn’s “life experiences” and extensive training played a significant role in him not firing his weapon.
“You think a little more as you get older,” Birk told this news agency. “Being older and mature helped him in this case.”
When Cooper wrecked, the stolen cruiser flipped on its side and he was apprehended.
Cooper’s live-in girlfriend, who didn’t want her name used, said as she witnessed the events unfold Thursday morning, it was like watching “a bad movie.”
When Cooper stole the police cruiser, then rammed another cruiser a short time later, his girlfriend was unsure if he survived the crash. She was “thankful” when Cooper was pulled out of the mangled cruiser.
“I didn’t know whether to expect him dead or alive,” she said.
She said Cooper was intoxicated at the time and he has battled alcoholism for years. Still, she said, his actions were “very much out of character.” He had never been arrested before in Middletown.
He was taken to Atrium Medical Center and treated for a punctured lung and injured arm. Birk said Morgan was treated and released from Middletown Kettering Medical Center. Morgan’s canine, Chase, retired a few weeks ago and wasn’t in the cruiser, Birk said.
Cooper was charged with felonious assault, a second-degree felony; aggravated vehicular assault, a third-degree felony; grand theft felony, of the fourth degree; aggravated menacing, a first-degree misdemeanor; assault on a police officer, a fourth-degree felony; obstructing official business, resisting arrest, driving under suspension and criminal tools.
When he was unable to appear in court Friday morning because he was hospitalized, the charges were withdrawn until he’s released, police said.