TWINSBURG — One city police officer is back to work, but another is still on medical leave after they suffered potentially serious injuries during an altercation with a Solon man on St. Patrick’s Day, Assistant Police Chief Bob Gonsiewski said on Wednesday.
Gonsiewski said Sgt. Eric Sawyer was treated and released for bruised ribs and given the OK to quickly return to work, but Patrolman Jeremy Vecchio remains out for awhile.
"He has a knee injury so he’ll be out for two, three weeks I think," said Gonsiewski.
According to Stow Municipal Court records, 55-year-old Benjamin K. Gest is charged with two counts of first-degree felony assault.
"He’s presumed innocent until proven guilty," said Max Hiltner, Gest’s attorney. "I really am confident that we’ll be able to explain the situation. There’s much more than there seems on paper."
According to a Twinsburg police call record, Solon police reported that a family member of Gest’s called to report that he left home intoxicated in his vehicle during the early afternoon after making a statement suggesting he might harm himself.
At about 1:20 p.m., someone walking along Glenwood Drive reported seeing a westbound vehicle believed to be Gest’s speeding and driving erratically with a blown tire.
Less than 10 minutes later, a family member of Gest’s called 911 and reported Gest had called and was stopped in front of a home at 1833 Westwood Drive and searching his vehicle, possibly for a gun. The relative said she did not know if Gest owned a gun.
"He did not have a gun," said Gonsiewski.
He said, however, that when officers arrived, Gest was searching through the vehicle’s trunk and the officers heard him referring to a gun. After Gest failed to comply with police orders to stop, said Gonsiewskia, a scuffle ensued, during which the officers were injured and an electronic shock device was used to subdue Gest.
"Our officers, they take people into custody every day and without incident," Gonsiewski said, adding that the officers in this case followed proper procedure.
"He was intoxicated, he was suicidal, he was not obeying their commands and he was fighting with them actively," he said. "The officers did what they needed to do, they used the minimum amount of force necessary to take him into custody, that’s what they’re trained to do and I’m confident they did."
The officers and Gest were taken to Cleveland Clinic Twinsburg for evaluation and treatment of injuries. From there, Gest was taken to Summit County Jail.
According to court records, Gest was arraigned on March 18 and his case was sent to a Summit County grand jury on Monday. He had been held on a $250,000 bond, but was released Monday on a personal bond and taken to an in-patient mental health facility.
"He’s much less culpable than it seems," said Hiltner. "I think the circumstances are going to play out, are going to shed light. It looks horrible from the outset, two officers allegedly feloniously assaulted, but I think when it comes out, it’s going to show there’s a lot more to the story and I look forward to telling that."
Reporter Jeff Saunders can be reached at 330-541-9431, firstname.lastname@example.org or @JeffSaunders_RP