Man indicted for threat, theft

Published 12:00 am Saturday, June 4, 2022

Freeman has federal lawsuit against same officer

An Ironton man was indicted by a special grand jury of retaliating against a public official and stealing money from an elderly woman.

On May 25, Wendell Kent Freeman, 63, was indicted by the Lawrence County grand jury with a prosecuting attorney from Scioto County presenting the evidence to them.

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The grand jury returned two felony counts in one case. The second case is two felony counts and two misdemeanor counts.

According to the theft indictment, the allegation is that between Jan. 21, 2020, and Oct. 27, 2021, Freeman took money from a bank account of an elderly woman of more than $7,500 but less than $37,500. The grand jury returns two counts of third degree felony theft.

In the retaliation indictment, Freeman is accused of threatening to physically harm Lawrence County Deputy Jonathan Spoljaric and was indicted on one count of third-degree felony retaliation, one count of fifth-degree felony obstructing official business, one count of first-degree misdemeanor aggravated menacing and one count of second-degree misdemeanor resisting arrest.

Freeman’s cases will be heard in the Lawrence County Municipal Court of Judge Andrew Ballard.

Freeman is suing Spoljaric and Lawrence County in the U.S. District for the Southern District of Ohio for violating his civil rights and deprivation of his rights under the First, Fourth and 14 amendments.

According to the court filing, the incident was at Freeman’s house on County Road 1 in South Point

The filing said that besides his house, Freeman’s property contains a small outbuilding that he rents and a firearms range. On Jan. 22, Freeman was practicing with his .357 Magnum and feeding his dogs when he got a phone call from a neighbor that a woman allegedly entered the outbuilding and removed items. Freeman called 911 to report a burglary in progress and Spoljaric responded to the scene.

When Spoljaric went back to his cruiser, Freeman walked to the back of his house to the firing range and then fired approximately five rounds into targets.

According to the civil court filing, Freeman “then walked around to the front door of his house and observed SPOLJARIC in the driveway who then yelled something at Freeman. Freeman then entered his home closed the door and tossed his pistol onto the kitchen table.”

The event was caught on cameras that Freeman had installed inside and outside his home because Freeman thought his house and property was being vandalized.

“Freeman then opened and stepped out of his front door, looked over to Spoljaric, and yelled ‘What?” Spoljaric approached Freeman and complained that he discharged his firearm. Freeman stated that he is allowed to fire his weapon on his own property. Spoljaric stated, “That’s not how it works,” and Freeman queried, “How does it work?”

“Spoljaric then stepped up to Freeman and backed approximately 3 feet into his house with his hands up in the air. Spoljaric told Freeman to exit his home as he removed his pepper spray container. Freeman, with his hands in the air stated that he had not done anjrthing (sic) and Spoljaric commenced pepper spraying Freeman point blank in his face and eyes.”

Spoljaric removed a TASER from his belt and ordered Freeman outside. When he didn’t, the deputy used the TASER and according to the filing, punched Freeman several times while he was on the ground.

According to the filing, when Freeman asked why Spoljaric was doing this, the deputy replied “I’m not going to be shot at by some (expletive) idiot!” Freeman stated that he wasn’t doing anything and Spoljaric then placed him in handcuffs.”

Freeman was arrested and the deputy put the handgun and a recording device into evidence.

In his suit, Freeman is seeking $250,000 in punitive damages and $1,000,000 in exemplary damages.

The suit was filed on April 8 and is still pending.