Heroin, Taser used in crash into school bus

Posted at 6:38 AM, Nov 24, 2015
and last updated 2015-11-24 06:38:41-05

MONTGOMERY, Ohio  - A police report about a heroin-high driver's head-on crash into a school bus says an officer used a stun gun to subdue the man and he had to be revived by EMTs on the way to the hospital.

In his report, Montgomery Officer Robert Otte said he also kicked and kneed the "combative" driver into submission at the crash scene before EMTs took him to Bethesda North.

Otte said he stunned the driver, Peter Smeriglio, in his arm and rib area with one Taser shot because the driver refused repeated orders to exit his crashed car. Before using the Taser, Otte said he broke out both driver-side windows in Smeriglio's car attempting to "get eyes" on the driver, but Otte said his vision was blocked by the exploded air bag.

Otte said he then went to the passenger door and  "observed the driver with one hand on the steering wheel and the other working the gear shift in what I believed to be an attempt to leave the scene." After the Taser shot, "the subject let go of the steering wheel and gear shift," Otte said.

Three other officers then pulled Smeriglio out of the driver's door, Otte said in the report.

"The subject was combative and refused to put his hands behind his back," Otte said. "I delivered a kick to the subject's backside in an attempt to to get the subject on his belly. That did not work. I then grabbed the subject by the belt and drove him to the ground with my knee in his backside. We then were able to get the subject handcuffed."

EMTs who transported Smeriglio to Bethesda North said the driver stopped breathing in route, Otte said.

"Squad personnel gave Mr. Smeriglio Narcan. After the Narcan, Mr. Smeriglio appeared to become more lucid," Otte said.

Smeriglio, 40, of Anderson Township, was driving under the influence of heroin and attempting to flee police when he crashed, according to a grand jury indictment last week.

Cruiser-cam video shows Smeriglio speed away from an intersection, cross Montgomery Road into oncoming traffic several  times and crash into a car and a school bus carrying 28 students to Montgomery Elementary on Nov. 13, according to police. The crashes happened about 9 a.m. on Montgomery Road near Bethesda North.

SEE the video above.

Smeriglio and three others were taken to Bethesda North. The students and driver on the Sycamore Community Schools bus were not injured and were not transported.

Smeriglio was charged with three felonies - aggravated vehicular assault and two counts of failure to comply with a police officer -  as well as two misdemeanor counts of OVI.

In the police report, Sgt. Greg Vonden Benken said he was one of the three officers who pulled Smeriglio out of his car and he backed up Otte's version of the events.

"Officer Otte and myself gave no less than 10 verbal commands to exit the vehicle and surrender. He did not comply or attempt to comply in any manner," Vonden Benken said.

He said Smeriglio "resisted the entire time." He said the Taser shot "had little effect on him."

Once Smeriglio submitted to the arrest, "the life squad immediately began to treat him and placed him on a backboard and used a neck collar," Vonden Benken said. "During the squad transport, he struggled to breathe so Narcan was administered to him because a heroin overdose was suspected.

"He claims he does not remember the crash/arrest or taking any drugs but did acknowledge that he did have a past substance abuse problem," Vonden Benken said. "As they were taking him into the ER at B-North, he began to regain consciousness and began to apologize for his actions, especially after learning he had struck a school bus head-on."

Another Montgomery police officer, Daniel Long, said in the report that he accompanied Smeriglio to the hospital, but Long doesn't mention that Smeriglio stopped breathing or was revived.

Montgomery police said the situation started when dispatchers got a call of a reckless driver heading north on Montgomery Road near SchoolHouse Lane.

In his report, Otte said he answered a BOLO call and saw a passenger bail out of Smeriglio's white Lancer at Radabaugh Road. That person was identified as 22-year-old Jade Smeriglio in the police report.

Otte said he pulled behind Smeriglio's stopped car at Pfeiffer Road and turned on his siren. But Smeriglio sped off and continued north on Montgomery Road, crossing the median and swerving in and out of the southbound lanes, eventually hitting a gray Mazda head on and then the school bus. The impact pushed the Mazda off the road and into a doctor's office at 10547 Montgomery Road. The rear of the Mazda broke through the brick wall into the waiting room, according to Otte's report.

The driver of that vehicle, Suzanne Hoskin, 28, of West Chester, Ohio, and her passenger were taken to Bethesda North. Hoskin suffered a broken foot and need five stitches to close a gash on her head. The passenger had  bumps and bruises.

The number of Tri-State drivers high on heroin and the accidents they cause are increasing rapidly, Lt. Bruce Hoffbauer, commander of the Cincinnati Police Traffic Section, told WCPO for our report, Heroin on the Highway, last week. At the time, there had been 148 OVI arrests for heroin in just the city of Cincinnati this year and 41 heroin-related traffic accidents.

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SEE WCPO's complete coverage of Heroin in the Tri-State.