Chief Faces Dismissal For Making Up Story About Being Shot

PERRYSVILLE, Ohio (AP) - A police chief faces dismissal after shooting himself in the leg while staging a traffic stop to cover up an earlier accidental shooting, the mayor said Thursday.

After investigators found holes in his story, Chief Tim Sommer admitted making up the tale.

On Wednesday, Mayor Renee Mott sent a letter to Sommer's home saying she would ask for his firing at a village council meeting Monday night.

"Then the council will either back my recommendation or say no," Mott said. "There will probably be a further investigation if they don't back me."

She said Ohio law forbids her from firing the police chief without the council's approval.

A message seeking comment from Sommer, 52, was left at his home Thursday. He has not been at work in the village about 60 miles northeast of Columbus since the shooting March 19.

Sommer had first told authorities that he was shot while struggling with a man he pulled over for driving without license plates.

Ashland County Sheriff Wayne Risner said Sommer made up the story because the police chief had accidentally fired a 9 mm rifle through his cruiser's windshield in the police garage.

"He didn't want to be embarrassed about shooting the window out of his cruiser," Risner said. "Everything that happened since then was to cover up that honest mistake."

Sommer drove to a county road and staged a traffic stop, the sheriff said.

The police chief made tire marks in the grass along the road and, while on the radio to report the traffic stop, fired his handgun at the ground to make it appear there was trouble, Risner said.

Sommer then accidentally hit the magazine button on his gun, which caused the ammunition to drop from the weapon. When he reloaded the gun, it went off and a bullet struck him in the leg, the sheriff said.

Sommer also threw a drug pipe and the casing from the accidental shooting out the window to make it look like someone else was there, Risner said.

No charges have been filed, but Risner said possible charges could include falsification, inducing panic and obstruction of justice. The sheriff's department plans to finish its investigation early next week and turn the case over to the county prosecutor.

A charge of inducing panic would be a result of 43 officers responding from various agencies when Sommer said he was shot, Risner said. The sheriff was upset that hundreds of hours were wasted looking for a suspect and a vehicle that did not exist.

Mott said Sommer, the police chief since December 1999, "likely wouldn't have been fired" if he had come forward when he damaged the cruiser.

"There would have been disciplinary action, maybe," Mott said.

(Copyright 2002 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)