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By: Rebecca Miller
At the Williams County Commissioners meeting, held on August 13, 2020, Sheriff Tom Kochert spoke with the commissioners concerning a box of munitions which was found in the Munitions room with a letter lying on top. He stated that he was not sure what to do with the box and wanted to know how they would prefer that he proceed?
This was explained in a previous article, covering that meeting: “‘The items listed on this letter, insomuch as I am aware, constitutes the sum total of the Williams County Sheriff’s office riot control suppression munitions,” Kochert said. He clarified that they have looked in every part of the building that is under his office’s control, as well as the Montpelier substation, to see if there were any more “laying around.” Nothing else was found.
He expressed his concern that “those items have been released, they have been transferred to an individual.” He asked the Commissioners if there is a resolution on record that has released the items to an individual and if so that person needs to take them. If not, how do they want him to proceed?
It was agreed following some discussion that he should contact Prosecutor Katie Zartman for direction concerning the munitions. In response to Commissioner Lew Hilkert’s statement, “One concern I have is the type of inventory that it is shouldn’t just go out to anyone without authority,” Sheriff Kochert informed them that “to that end I also instructed Chief Deputy Lehman to notify the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives agent who covers our area and ask about any federal regulations concerning the transfer of those items. The clerk was instructed to make a copy of the letter since it is public record now.”
In a phone interview on August 17, 2020, Gary Mohre, write in candidate for November and Interim Sheriff for Williams County from March 18 through June 10, 2020, in response to the news that Sheriff Tom Kochert had brought concerns about a box of munitions in the Arms Room to the Williams County Commissioners said, “The Ft. Wayne Police Department had several riots in response to the killing of George Floyd, so they sent out a request on May, 29, 2020, for simunition – non lethal ammunition, saying they needed it.
So we said, yes, we have some in our locker room. This was part of what I was hired to do, part of the job, and I did not need anyone’s approval. I was hired to be the Sheriff and that is what the Sheriff does. The Police departments in Bryan, Montpelier, Edon, Blakeslee and Edgerton all said they had some as well, that they could send for Ft. Wayne’s use. The plan was that Ft. Wayne would use it if needed, and then replace it, or return it if not used.
This call for help happened while I was Interim Sheriff and Randy Mohre who is Police Chief of Blakeslee said he would pick up from all five departments and transport it to Ft. Wayne Police Department. That was under the advisement of Mayor Linda Muehlfeld, who encouraged them to do so.
Williams County uses help from the Ft. Wayne Police Deptartment for lots of reasons such as bomb sniffing dogs, swat team, etc. and it is not often that smaller departments get to help the larger ones, so we were glad to return the favor. Randy picked up the simunition on June 1, 2020 from all the departments involved, and delivered it all to the Ft. Wayne PD.
Ft. Wayne planned to use it, but ended up not needing any of what was sent from the five Williams County departments. On June 25, 2020, which was after I was out of office, it was all returned to all five departments. Tom Kochert was in office at that time. It had been signed out to Randy Mohre on June 1, 2020, and when it was returned, someone who was there would have signed it in.”
On August 19, 2020 Mohre picked up a letter from the Ft. Wayne PD, which explained the situation and thanked the six departments for their participation and for quick action to help them out. The letter from Captain Scott Berning, FWPD, Special Operations Group, was addressed to Edgerton Police Chief Dan Griffin, Bryan Police Chief Christopher Chapa, Montpelier Police Chief Dan McGee, Edon Police Chief Tom Szymczak, Williams County Sheriff (interim) Gary Mohre and Blakesless Police Chief Randy Mohre. The letter read, “Dear Sirs: On May 29, 2020, the City of Fort Wayne was beset with civil unrest related to the nationwide protests brought upon by the death of George Floyd in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.
The protest deteriorated into a situation that required the use of both chemical and less-lethal munitions. The civil unrest continued on May 30. At the end of the second day, an inventory of our munitions stockpile was evaluated. It was determined that we only had enough munitions to make it through one more day of a sustained use of the munitions supply. At this time, we reached out to area law enforcement agencies in an effort to augment our chemical and kinetic energy munitions.
Chief Randy Mohre, Blakeslee PD, was contacted and agreed to aid the Fort Wayne Police Department. The next day he stated that he had secured various chemical and kinetic munitions from several law enforcement entities in Northwest Ohio. On Monday, June 1, these munitions were picked up by the Fort Wayne Police Department.
After the first weekend of unrest, the protests once again became more civil, and police intervention was not required. As time passed, the FWPD was able to secure an emergency order of munitions, thus allowing us to return all of the donated munitions on June 25. While we never had the need to expend any of the donated items, the men and women of the FWPD truly and greatly appreciate the fact that we can count on the support and assistance from fellow law enforcement agencies in Northwest Ohio. Once again, thank you,” and it was signed by Captain Scott Berning.
The letter which Sheriff Kochert took to the commissioners was printed on paper with the WC Sheriff’s Office letterhead with Gary E. Mohre, Sheriff at the top. It gave the inventory of the box as (no counts included due to security purposes) 12 ga Diversionary Device – #23FB from Defense Technology (DT), 12 ga OC Powder Ferret rounds – #3090 from DT, 37mm Ferret OC powder projectile -#1190 from DT, 37mm CS powder dispersion projectile – #1142 from DT, 37mm Stinger 60cal rubber ball projectile – #1198 from DT, 37mm Bean Bag projectile – #1225 from DT, 37mm Skat-Shell Saf-Smoke multi projectile -#1173 from DT and 37mm Spede-Heat Saf-Smoke long range projectile – $1183 from DT. There was one item, 37mm single shot gas riot guns, which was crossed out and had initials next to it of GM. It was released to R. Mohre and signed by Randy Mohre, dated 6/1/2020 and Gary Mohre’s signature was on the “Released by” line. Down in the left hand corner was hand written, “Released to _________” and “Date_______.” The lines were blank, with no name or date.
On August 22, 2020, Sheriff Kochert informed The Village Reporter, “I want to make it clear there was no political motive. I did not mention any names at the open session to keep this from becoming political, and kept the letter in a folder the entire time. I also did not give any names to any news publication. My motive was simply to get a basic question answered, ie; what do I do with this box of munitions that had been signed out of my custody. I did not ask around the office for the fact that regardless of any answer I would have received, I still needed a resolution from the commissioners to show that a proper transfer of munitions to a person outside our agency had occurred.”
“Regarding the letter, it was a simple list of munitions in a box, dated before I took office, showing munitions transferred to another person outside our agency. There was no additional paperwork with the munitions that explained why they were being transferred, where the final destination was to be, or a date they were signed back into the office, or by whom. I could not return them to inventory without proper paperwork.”
“Williams County prosecutor Zartman examined the situation after I brought it to the commissioners attention. She then told me that it was ok to return them to inventory, which is what occurred. This was a basic administrative function requiring proper paperwork and signatures. That was my intended purpose for inquiring.”
Rebecca can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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Source: The Village Reporter