11 03 2008

Police car dragged man’s body for blocks

Tuesday,  March 11, 2008

By Randy Ludlow

The Columbus Dispatch

http://www.columbusdispatch.com/live/content/local_news/stories/2008/03/11/Ironton.ART_ART_03-11-08_B1_K29JUIK.html?sid=101

Ironton, Ohio — When Ironton Police Officer Richard Fouts arrived for duty Saturday night, he noticed something wedged beneath his car.

Fouts had run over Guy Thomas, 46, and dragged the man’s body for six-tenths of a mile, apparently without noticing.

“It’s hard to believe a cop could drag somebody that far and not realize it,” the dead man’s nephew, Juan Thomas Jr., said yesterday.” An officer is supposed to be totally aware of his surroundings. … It’s not possible at all.”

Ironton Police Chief Jim Carey has the same questions as everyone else.

“There are some people who are outraged and there are those who want questions answered,” Carey said.

“How could he have not seen this man? How could he not know he was dragging someone?”

Fouts, 27, an Ironton officer for two months, was placed on administrative leave. Carey called in the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Identification & Investigation to conduct an independent investigation.

Police are uncertain whether Thomas walked into Fouts’ path or was lying in the street when he was struck shortly before 10 p.m. Saturday, Carey said.

Footprints in the snow established that Thomas was at the American Legion on Quincy Street and walked across S. 9th Street at Jefferson Avenue, where he was run over by the police car, Carey said.

Guy Thomas was a Navy veteran who assisted a brother with his contracting business. The Ironton man recently was left partially disabled by epilepsy, his nephew said.

“It’s a possibility he had an attack and fell in the street. It’s possible he could have been struck earlier by a vehicle,” Juan Thomas Jr. said. “We need to let the investigating parties do their job.”

Fouts noticed the body under his take-home police car in the police department parking lot as he was about to enter the station, Carey said. Thomas was declared dead at the scene.

Fouts has given state investigators a taped interview, but Carey said he did not know what the officer said. No telephone number could be found for Fouts.

Ironton is about 100 miles south of Columbus.

“A lot of people are angry,” said Juan Thomas Jr. “But patience is what needs to be in everyone’s mind and sympathy is what needs to be in everybody’s heart.”

rludlow@dispath.com

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