Police tell the Columbus Dispatch that Columbus Fire Investigator Jeffrey L. Smith was involved in an on-duty road rage incident with another motorist where Smith drew his weapon and handcuffed the other driver. While Michael J. Watkins was charged with aggravating menacing and Smith was not charged with a crime, the fire investigator has been placed on administrative duty with his city issued weapon taken way while an internal investigation continues. The paper reports the two men were familiar with each other and have had past differences.
The article in today’s Dispatch by Lucas Sullivan not only talks about the January 2 confrontation between Smith and Watkins at Jack Gibbs Boulevard and Cleveland Avenue, it points to a previous investigation by the paper into the city’s armed firefighters. In August, the Dispatch reported the City’s Fire Division lacked a gun policy and that 10 of 14 firefighters issued guns, including Smith, were not certified by the Ohio Peace Officer Training Academy.
Smith said Watkins brandished a gun from inside his car during the argument.
Police found a black pellet gun in Watkins’ car, according to a police incident report.
Smith told investigators that’s when he jumped out of his unmarked city vehicle, drew his weapon and ordered Watkins out of his car. Smith placed Watkins in handcuffs and called police.
(City Attorney Richard C.) Pfeiffer and officials with the city’s Department of Public Safety previously have said that firefighters are allowed to carry guns within the city limits, but can only use them during “fire-related incidents.” Those same officials insist that armed firefighters do not have the same use-of-force and arrest powers as police officers.
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