Bollinger returns to work: AG could send case to grand jury

Published 9:57 am Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Lawrence County Detective Sgt Aaron Bollinger returned to work at the sheriff’s office on Tuesday morning after a state report determined that he was within his rights in the shooting death of a Kitts Hill man.

“I got the report back on Friday from (the Bureau of Criminal Investigation) saying it was a clean shoot,” Lawrence County Sheriff Jeff Lawless said.

On Nov. 4, the sheriff’s office and the county drug and major crimes task force executed a search warrant concerning trafficking in drugs at a home in Kitts Hill.

Email newsletter signup

When the deputies entered the house, they were confronted by Ernest F. McKnight Jr., 64, who had a weapon, according to a sheriff’s office release at the time.

McKnight was ordered to put down his rifle, which he refused to do, according to the sheriff’s office. Bollinger, in fear for his life, fired once. McKnight was pronounced dead at the scene.

“The victim, when officers approached with a search warrant, had a loaded rifle pointed at the officers,” Lawrence County Prosecuting Attorney Brigham Anderson said on Tuesday. “The officers commanded that he put it down, which he did not. The gun McKnight had was jammed. He had attempted to fire at officers with 15 loaded rounds.”

Despite the BCI report, however, the shooting incident could still come before a county grand jury.

“At the time of the incident, Detective Bollinger was a member of the drug task force and that runs through the prosecuting attorney’s office,” Anderson said. “Because of that it gives me a conflict of interest to present it myself.”

Anderson has turned the incident over to the Ohio Attorney General’s office for it to determine whether the shooting will go to the grand jury and if so, when.

“Bollinger’s actions saved other officers’ lives,” the prosecutor said. “It was necessary.”

For more than two months Bollinger was on paid administrative leave before returning this week.

“I am certainly glad to get him back,” Lawless said. “Every person is vital since we have such a short staff. I am glad the report came back there was no wrongdoing on any officer’s part. I think his actions probably saved the lives of himself and other officers.”