Coal Grove Police officer resigns after unauthorized party in village building (WITH VIDEO)

Published 3:46 pm Thursday, January 26, 2023

NOTE: Video includes contains scenes that may be offensive to some viewers

COAL GROVE — A Coal Grove police officer has resigned after videos surfaced of a party being held in the H. Jae Roush Community Building, which houses the mayor’s court and the police station.

In the Snapchat videos, believed to have been taken on Dec. 23 or Dec. 24, five young adults are seen drinking beer, dancing, sitting in the mayor’s chair and playing with the gavel. One person is seen with cigars and an unidentified leafy green substance while seated in the mayor’s chair.

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Videos of the unauthorized party were anonymously sent to J.T. Holt, the solicitor for the Village of Coal Grove, on the evening of Saturday, Jan. 21.

He immediately shared them with Police Chief Bill Murphy and Mayor Gary Sherman.

Murphy called patrolman Landon Hutchinson, the officer who was accused of letting the people into the building. The part-time police officer was off duty when the incident took place.

“We spoke to the officer around 7:30 p.m. Upon the investigation of it, he was put on administrative leave,” Murphy said.

It was determined that Hutchinson was in violation of several village policies including, but not limited to conduct unbecoming of a law enforcement officer, possessing alcohol on village property/in village facilities, withholding information from a superior officer, misuse of official position and inappropriate off-duty conduct.

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Around 9 a.m., Murphy met with Hutchinson at the police station and collected all his department-issued equipment including keys.

During the interview, Hutchinson said he didn’t want to continue the interview and wished to resign. Murphy told him he was terminated effective immediately. Murphy then contacted the Lawrence County Sheriff’s Department to tell them about Hutchinson’s terminated status and then filed a required notice of separation of service with the Ohio Attorney General’s Office.

Holt called the situation an “embarrassment” after the new Coal Grove Police Department had worked hard in the past year.

In January 2022, the then-police chief, Randy Lewis, and the rest of the Coal Grove Police Department quit. Murphy, who had been Proctorville’s police chief for a decade, was hired to replace him in February 2022.

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“We take great pride in our police department and we believe Chief Murphy does a great job and, since he has become police chief, the department has thrived,” Holt said. “And the public trust and relationship with the police department has improved immensely from where it was a year ago. We believe this was an isolated event and just an irresponsible decision by a young officer. And it was dealt with according to the policy of the village.”

Holt said the matter is still being investigated and that the focus is on the officer and his conduct.

“From our investigation, it appears the officer brought those individuals with him and he invited them and brought them into the building,” he said, adding that it doesn’t appear that the people in the video are connected to the Coal Grove village government.

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“We know they are not employees of the Village of Coal Grove and we have not identified them as of yet,” he said. “It is a policy that if any employee brings alcohol onto village property, it is grounds for immediate job termination and it is a policy that will be strictly enforced by the village.”

Holt said that there are going to be more security cameras installed in and around the H. Jae Roush Community Building in the near future.