The investigations surrounding former Akron police chief James Nice will be handled by folks outside of Akron. Both Summit County Prosecutor Sherri Bevan Walsh and Akron Mayor Dan Horrigan taking the steps for a special prosecutor and team of investigators from Cuyahoga County to take over the case.
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(Prosecutor Walsh / Mayor Horrigan) Summit County Prosecutor Sherri Bevan Walsh today requested the appointment of a special prosecutor from Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Michael O'Malley's Office to oversee the pending criminal matter concerning Joseph Nice and further evaluate any evidence that may be obtained in the investigation of former Akron Police Chief James Nice.
Prosecutor Sherri Bevan Walsh stated that "a special prosecutor is requested when we have a realistic concern that there may be a conflict in handling a criminal case or investigation. Based on the working relationship between the prosecutor's office and the largest police department in the county, this appointment removes any concerns or appearances that could lead to questions of fairness or bias, either way, in the handling of either the Joseph Nice or former Chief Nice investigations and/or prosecutions."
In addition, pursuant to Section 58 of the Akron City Charter, Mayor Dan Horrigan today appointed special investigators from the Cuyahoga County Prosecutor's Office who will be authorized to investigate the allegations concerning former Akron Police Chief James Nice and will furnish information to the Special Prosecutor.
"I am committed to a full and complete investigation of these matters," said Mayor Dan Horrigan. "I believe it is in the public interest for me to exercise my authority to appoint special investigators to ensure the special prosecutor has sufficient resources to execute a fair and timely examination of the facts. The residents of Akron, and the men and women of the Akron Police Department, deserve no less than that."
Akron Police Chief James Nice has stepped down after Mayor Dan Horrigan requested his resignation.
A statement released by the City of Akron Sunday evening did not specify a reason for asking Nice, who had served as Chief since 2011, to leave his post. More answers are expected at a press conference scheduled for Monday at 12:30 p.m. James Hardy, Horrigan's Chief of Staff, declined further comment pending the press conference.
Nice served in the FBI from 1985-2011 before joining the Akron Police. He is a graduate of Kenmore High School and the University of Akron.
Horrigan appointed Maj. Ken Ball to serve as Provisional Chief of Police.
Facial reconstruction technology is not new to forensics, but it is new to Northeast Ohio, according to Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine.
In a press conference at Akron Police headquarters downtown, DeWine along with Akron Fire Chief Clarence Tucker, Akron Police Captain Jesse Leeser who heads the Detective Bureau, Summit County Medical Examiner Lisa Kohler, M.D., and other law enforcement officials, DeWine unveiled the facial reconstruction of a human skull that was found at the scene of an Akron fire.
The fire in question happened at a vacant home at 1345 Marcy Street back in 2012. Akron Fire Chief Clarence Tucker said that the department conducted their standard three-tiered sweep of the home and found no human remains. It was not until January 8, 2016, that the remains of John Doe were found. Captain Leeser said remains were found inside and outside the home. Just recently, forensic scientists with Ohio BCI and Mercyhurst College in Pennsylvania were able to use facial reconstruction technology to put together the model (pictured.) It is their estimate that the John Doe is a white male, between 30 and 55-years-old. He's estimated at 5'9", but his weight, hair color and eye color remain unknown.
DeWine's office's hope is that someone might recognize the man and contact law enforcement.
As for the facial reconstruction technology, DeWine says it's been used in cases in Ohio before, but not in Northeast Ohio to this point.
There are steps being taken to address some of the community concerns surrounding the heroin epidemic in Akron. The Akron Police Department has started training officers on using Narcan to help save the lives of those who may have overdosed.
"We want to do everything we can to save lives," said Akron Police Chief James Nice. "So the next step is to put in into the police cruisers. In case the cruiser does get there before EMS, we're given every opportunity to save a life."
Nice said it's not often that police officers arrive on scene of an overdose before EMS, but he still believes it's important to have officers equipped with the drug to offer help.
At this point, Nice said carrying Narcan does not come with a cost for the department. The first shipment of the supply will come from the hospitals and the Summit County Health Department. Nice said grants are expected to help pay for additional supplies when needed.
Nice expects Narcan to be in every police cruiser beginning this Friday.
17 overdoses and one death in one day have city and county officials reacting to Akron's heroin epidemic.
Akron mayor Dan Horrigan says the problem can't just be solved by arresting people.
"We must realize while our first responders continue to bear the brunt of this epidemic," Horrigan told reporters at a news conference at the Summit County Public Health Department, "this is long past moved into the public health crisis, and away from a public safety crisis that afflicts many communities across our state and across our country."
And Akron police chief James Nice, his department investigating what happened Tuesday and any link between the cases, says the epidemic will continue while the supply keeps coming in...which nothing that local police can stop...
"But as long as the supply is coming in so strong from Mexico, which the Akron Police Department is not able to do much from it coming into the country," Chief Nice says, "we're going to have problems with heroin as long as it coming into the country so easily."
The overdoses happened in the afternoon and evening hours in various parts of Akron.
A 44 year-old man died, and among those who survived were a mother and two adult daughters, who all overdosed at the same time.
Most survived thanks to the anti-heroin drug. Narcan, but police say that the heroin may have been laced with fentanyl...which is more resistant to Narcan.
As of early Wednesday afternoon, two more overdoses have been reported.
Heroin continues to be a problem in the state and across the country. Akron's police chief has decided to tackle the growing problem by forming a unit targeting heroin dealers for possible murders charges in cases of fatal overdoses.
Police Chief James Nice says the department has worked to track high level dealers - those involved with large amounts of drugs - but now they're also coming after the low level dealers that are directly handing the drugs to the users.
"People are dying weekly from heroin overdoses. It's outrageous. It's unlike some of the other drug problems we've had," said Nice.
Nice said low level dealers barely get any jail time for carrying a small amount of drugs, but he believes they should hold some responsibility in cases of fatal overdoses.
"These people, to me, are the most egregious people that are convincing people to use heroin, giving it to them and they're dead an hour later," said Nice. "Nothing is being done with those."
Nice said the department is working to build homicide cases against the dealers. He said they currently have one case pending, but details of the case were not released.
Nice is working to convince state lawmakers to consider the importance of having tougher laws against dealers in fatal overdose cases. He said
"Those are things as a chief that I can speak out on and have word on, but the laws need to change significantly."
The new heroin unit will consist of two detectives that will have a primary mission to focus on heroin overdose investigations and to track the dealers involved in the case.