Saturday, July 24, 2004

Arson suspected at officer's home

Batavia police badge reported stolen

By Jennifer Edwards
Enquirer staff writer

PIERCE TOWNSHIP - Authorities are investigating the suspected arson and burglary of a Batavia police officer's home.

No injuries were reported in the 12:31 a.m. Thursday fire. The officer and his family were out of state on vacation, said Pierce Township Fire Chief Aaron Boggs.

Damage to the home was estimated Friday at $60,000. The home has extensive smoke and drywall damage but is not a total loss, Boggs said. He declined to say where the fire began or what caused investigators to believe it was arson.

"I know he is very upset, very concerned," Pierce Township Police Chief James Smith said. "At this point we don't know if the burglary was a crime of opportunity and someone found out someone was on vacation and broke into the home or the home was targeted because he is a police officer."

A duty nylon gun belt was taken with accessories including baton, chemical irritant, 9 mm pistol magazine, a Clermont County 800 MHz radio and Batavia police badge.

The items were discovered missing later Thursday, when the officer returned home about 4 p.m., Smith said.

On Friday, the locks to the Pierce Township police department were changed. Police officials also were changing the locks on two police cruisers.

But police are particularly concerned about the officer's badge.

"It has happened all over the country where someone can use a badge to stop someone," Smith said. "There are people who are put in that vulnerability of trusting that person and are finding out they may be taken away to be seriously harmed or to die."

The officer, one of Batavia's four, full-time officers, remains on vacation, Chief Mike Gardner said.

"We definitely don't want anybody out here posing as a police officer, especially as a Batavia police officer," he said. "The radio is a very expensive item but they can be shut down, and it's already disabled, so they can't even get anything on the radio at all."

If citizens are stopped by anyone displaying a badge and are doubtful the person is a police officer, they should call 911 immediately.



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