An Example of Great Police Work: What could have been a tragedy in Liberty Township, Ohio turned out well for everyone but the gunman

I took some time to consider the case of the 10-year-old boy who was held hostage by a drug crazed gunman just down the road from my house for 30 hours over this past weekend because honestly, I felt bad for the kid. He certainly didn’t deserve what happened to him. It’s not his fault the adults in his life put him in that kind of situation. His mother and her brother are at fault for even answering the door at 11:30 on a Friday night during a snow storm—one of the coldest nights of the year. His mother is even at fault for knowing the gunman—who conducts a relationship with a loser just let out of the state penitentiary six months prior—and expects things to go well? But after hearing the mother talk about the terrible ordeal, I felt sorry for her too. She made a mistake and she was at least taking some responsibility for it. However, this case which became nationwide is such a good example of positive police work that it would be terrible not to talk about it, so let’s do.

Sheriff Jones and I have had a less than positive relationship over recent years. The Issue 2 initiative in Ohio where public sector unions were to be stripped of their power, Jones was obviously for preserving the way things were, and I was against it. Our relationship never really healed since. We were both on WLW almost daily at that time. He wanted to preserve the power of public sector unions obviously as a sheriff, and I wanted to see an end to collective bargaining of anyone on a government payroll. We have seen each other here and there and haven’t spoken much since that election of 2012. Additionally, I think he should have a much stronger stance on illegal drugs than he does. I understand the political difficulties from his point of view, but I don’t respect those restrictions so that is an issue of contention as well. It’s not that he’s a pro-drug Butler County Sheriff—but his position is not as passionate against it as I’d like it to be.

However, I have to say that I was very proud of the temperament of the law enforcement that engaged in the standoff at Liberty Springs townhouses just down the road from Liberty Center. That’s when Donald Tobias Gazaway came to the door of a single mom and her brother Rodderick Trammel to ask for money after a drug crazed party earlier that night had left the convict depleted of his mental faculties and an empty wallet. When the mom refused the scum bag took her little ten-year old boy hostage and from there a 30 hour stand-off ensued. The mom and her brother left the apartment for some mysterious reason to call police and the SWAT team arrived to settle the incident. I must say at this point I would expect the mother or her brother to have a concealed carry permit and to have shot the gunman at the point of danger, when Gazaway moved to take the little boy hostage. Gazaway wouldn’t have been able to do that if the mother and her brother had been armed—and the situation would have been solved right then and there.

The great thing about the police in this case is that they did have access to a large armored vehicle shown in the tweet by Craig Bucheit, Chief of Police. Having that vehicle allowed the police to barricade themselves safely behind it while the gunman holding the kid hostage inside the home shot over 20 rounds of bullets at them. The police at that point had every right in the world to use deadly force, but they didn’t. Instead, they let the gunman run out of gas allowing the standoff to end peacefully. The difference maker in the whole ordeal was that armored car. I thought it was a remarkable level of police work to utilize it to the full effect instead of becoming a bunch of panicky cops shooting at the slightest provocation. Even though Sheriff Jones didn’t take credit for all the good police work he did create a culture around the various police forces which allowed them to use their strengths against the weaknesses of Donald Tobias Gazaway.

Even greater than that, the police kept a good relationship with the community turning the whole thing into a very positive experience, even as bullets were flying around. The police brought the kid and the criminal McDonald’s meals and gave them water to keep them hydrated and the neighbors allowed the law enforces to get warm in their homes and use their restrooms during the long hours of contention. If something like this had happened anywhere else in the country, I can’t say that it would have turned out any better. The combination of good leadership from Sheriff Jones and all the various police departments that fell under his jurisdiction was phenomenal. He deserves a lot of credit for setting the proper modes of success for which everything occurred, even after the arrest of the gunman. Jones could have really turned up the media heat, but he kept things even and cool which is a lot harder than many people think.

I’m not ready to go pass a police levy after all this to feed collective bargaining agreements with excessively high wages for all cops, but I am much more supportive of the kind of armaments that the police can have to take care of situations like this one. I’m a big fan of the SWAT armored vehicle which gave the police such an overwhelming advantage in the frigid cold of a January night during a snow storm. The fear of giving the police such powerful weapons is that they might turn that against us all—but in Butler County the tools were used properly, and to great effect. The little boy gets to live a hopefully good life. The mother gets to skid past a possibly much more dangerous situation and should consider herself lucky. Hopefully she learns from this. And a bad guy goes back to jail where he clearly belongs.

I often show great pride for the community I live in—I’m very proud of it. I could live anywhere in the world that I want to, but I chose to stay in Liberty Township because I think it is the best place to live. Sure, sometimes we get in little political squabbles, but we generally all get along most of the time, and the quality of life reflects it. Its very unusual to have scum bags like this Donald Gazaway hanging out in our community—at least out in the open. I would point to the tendency of past feel-good politicians who endeavored to make Liberty Township accessible to even the poorest and those of low ambition—so they could live the “good life,” and show them that their sentiments were pretty stupid in hind sight. You can’t mix people of poor quality with people of high quality and expect things to go well. I don’t think anybody out there would say that losers like Gazaway should be hanging out around the children of Four Bridges, or Wetherington so the social experimentation when it goes bad has a cost. Thinking back several years I remember when a friend of mine wanted to go into a partnership with me on that exact piece of property where this standoff took place. I wasn’t crazy about the idea because it was too far from the highway and I never thought it would produce much of anything in value. As it turned out they built these townhouses which attracted renters and people who have a tendency to be unstable. Many people are good, but some are not in those types of places and in this case we had a mom who wanted to walk on the wild side with a convicted felon—and it cost her and that entire community a lot in reputation. I’m glad my money wasn’t involved. But I am glad that our police department was in tip-top shape to handle a tough situation very well, and give a 10-year-old boy a new day to live, love and be free in the great community of Liberty Township, Ohio.

Rich Hoffman

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