An Ohio police officer lost his job and possibly his freedom after authorities say he lied about being robbed by a Black man.
Noah Linnen, 23, was fired by the Warren Police Department on Jan. 22 after investigators determined his story was a hoax. On the same day, he was arraigned on several charges, including tampering with evidence, falsification, interrupting public service and inducing panic.
Linnen was off duty when he called for help after a purported robbery on Jan. 13, according to Tribune Chronicle. He told Howland police officers he had stopped to assist a man in a broken-down vehicle sitting on the side of the road. Linnen claimed the man brandished “silver revolver with a black handle” and demanded money and his service weapon. Linnen reportedly told investigators he tossed his police shield to distract the man before he pulled his own weapon and the pair exchanged fire. The accused man further stated his shoulder was struck by a bullet. Investigators found a hole in his jacket but no injuries.
Linnen described the suspect as a Black man with a thin build who was wearing a hoodie that obstructed view of his face and a T-shirt pulled over his chin like a mask. An affidavit from the prosecutor stated about 50 officers from various agencies responded to Linnen’s call and at least three Black men were detained “a significant period of time” during the investigation.
After changing his story at least four times, Linnen admitted he was lying.
“Noah Linnen’s false statements were calculated to mislead investigating officers in the commission of their official duties,” the affidavit said. “His further action of fabricating a crime scene and wrongfully describing and accusing a black person by physical description was an attempt to corrupt the outcome of their investigation and led to innocent persons being detained by police.”
In the last version of the story, Linnen said he fired his service weapon at a passing car after it almost hit his vehicle, WKBN reported. When he realized he messed up, he concocted the story to explain why he used the gun.
“He stated he had to stage the scene because he was fearful of what would happen if it got back to his supervisors that he fired his duty weapon off-duty and out of his jurisdiction,” explained Howland Police Chief Nick Roberts.
Warren Mayor William Franklin and Police Chief Eric Merkel condemned Linnen’s actions during a joint press conference last Wednesday, according to WFMJ.
“It’s a sad day for the city of Warren. Unfortunately, the issue of race was injected by Mr. Linnen,” said Franklin.
“I am angry and disgusted at the situation,” said Merkel. “There was no reason to believe the officer would have acted out like this based on the vetting process.”
Linnen’s actions could have ruined the already testy relationship between Warren police and the city’s residents. The department was under the Department of Justice oversight until last year due to several instances of excessive force and unauthorized searches.
“This agency has undergone years of transformation in order to rebuild public trust,” Merkel wrote in Linnen’s termination letter. “I will not allow one officer’s actions to tarnish the relationship we have built with our community.”
Linnen pleaded not guilty to the charges and waived a scheduled disciplinary hearing last week. If convicted, he could face six years in prison.