GLENDALE, Ohio – The young police officer who shot a man reportedly wielding a knife in a confrontation on Interstate 75 this week got a commendation from the village two years ago for safely handling a "dangerous situation" involving two men with a gun.
Officer Josh Hilling, 30, has a clean personnel file and good performance reviews since joining the Glendale Police Department as a part-time officer in 2011, WCPO determined after examining his file. Hilling had been a full-time officer just 12 weeks when he shot Javier Pablo Aleman, later found to be a murder suspect wanted in Baltimore, Maryland.
In January, 2014, Hilling reported that he made a traffic stop on Route 747 and saw a gun in the car in open view. He and other officers arrested the two men in the car and recovered packs of heroin intended for distribution.
Chief Dave Warman nominated Hilling for the village's monthly service award, writing:
"While speaking with the driver … Officer Hilling became suspicious of the driver's actions and called for backup ... Officer Hilling noticed movement by the driver and passenger. Officer Hilling then noticed that a weapon had been placed by the driver's right leg. Officer Hilling then held the suspects at gunpoint until backup units arrived … Officer Hilling should be recognized for outstanding service to our community. He placed his own life in danger while taking dangerous drugs away from people near our community."
As it turned out, the gun was not loaded, according to Hilling's report, but he had no way of knowing that at the time.
Hilling won the award, which came with a $200 bonus.
In Hilling's last performance review, Warman gave him a 4.5 on a 1-to-5 scale, rating him very good or exceptional in all 12 areas and writing:
"P.O. Hilling is aggressive in his enforcement duties but also exercises significant discretion in his decision making. He is dependable and available for extra duties when needed. Josh is well-liked by his peers and has unlimited growth potential with the department."
Hilling was working as a part-time officer at Kings Island and Xavier University when he went to work for Glendale in August, 2008, according to his job application.
He studied criminal justice in college, getting an associate degree from Cincinnati State in 2006 and a bachelor's degree from the University of Cincinnati in 2008. He also received Ohio Police Certification from Great Oaks Police Academy.
Hilling graduated from LaSalle High School, where he played on the football team and ran track.
Hilling was on patrol Tuesday afternoon when he saw a man with a backpack walking illegally along I-75. He told officials that he offered Aleman a ride, but Aleman ignored him.
At that point, authorities say, Hilling got out of his car and the two men exchanged words.
Warman said it's department policy for officers to check any bags before allowing someone into a police cruiser, and that's what led to the confrontation.
Hamilton County Sheriff's Maj. Mike Horton told reporters at the scene that the shooting was the result of a "very brief contact" between Hilling and Aleman.
Several witnesses described a scuffle with Aleman hitting Warman and Warman, with his gun drawn pointing skyward, stepping back from Aleman.
The investigation is ongoing, and county prosecutor Joe Deters expects to announce his findings by the middle of next week, his office said Thursday.
Aleman was treated at University of Cincinnati Medical Center. Baltimore police said they were working to extradite Aleman to Maryland.
Hilling has been on paid leave since the shooting. Warman said he expected Hilling to be back at work next week.