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Euclid mayor fires officer who placed gun to man’s head during bar brawl with Hell’s Angels

September 26, 2018

Euclid mayor fires officer who placed gun to man’s head during bar brawl with Hell’s Angels

EUCLID, Ohio — Euclid Mayor Kirsten Holzheimer Gail has fired a city police officer after he pulled out a gun during a fight with suspected members of the Hell’s Angels motorcycle gang at a Willoughby bar last month. 

Todd Gauntner, 32, was charged with using a weapon while under intoxication in an incident that happened in the early morning hours of Aug. 24 at Frank and Tony’s Place on 2nd Street in Willoughby, Willoughby police said. 

Gauntner and two other men -- Dustin Wolf, 28, and Bradley Peterson, 39 -- got into an argument that turned into a physical brawl police said.

Officers went to the bar about 1 a.m. to investigate a report of a large fight involving several men. A bartender told the investigators that someone pulled out a gun and put it to someone’s head, according to a Willoughby police report. Gauntner did not use his department-issued gun in the incident, the report says.

“You initiated the incident with the two men who were alleged members of the Hell’s Angels organization by making disparaging comments to them,” Gail wrote in the one-page letter dated Sept. 17. “You also had the opportunity to remove yourself from the situation but failed to do so...You put yourself and many bar patrons at a significant risk of substantial harm due to your reckless behavior.”

Gauntner violated rules unbecoming of an officer, neglect of duty, unsatisfactory performance and use of alcohol off duty, Gail said. 

He was placed on administrative leave after the incident. Euclid police Chief Scott Meyer suspended him for 15 days on Sept. 10 for violating department rules. A day later Meyer recommended Gaunter’s termination. 

Gaunter and representatives from the Fraternal Order of Police met with Gail, Meyer and officials from the city’s law department to discuss what occurred at the bar. Gail decided to fired Gaunter four days later. His termination was effective immediately, she wrote in the letter. 

“Your actions have brought discredit to you as a member of the Euclid Police Department,” Gail wrote in closing. “I no longer have confidence that you can perform successfully as a member of the Euclid Police Department.”

Gauntner was a four-year veteran of the Euclid Police Department once honored for saving the life of a man shot 16 times, but Gauntner’s negative attention dates back to 2016. 

He also pleaded guilty to discharging a firearm in an incident that happened Thanksgiving at Sims Park in Euclid. A Euclid Municipal Court judge ordered him to pay a $235 fine and to attend counseling in that incident. Euclid police suspended him for 90 days as they conducted an internal investigation. 

Gaunter pleaded not guilty to the charges filed after the bar, according to Willoughby Municipal Court records. His next scheduled court hearing is for Nov. 1, records said.

Wolf and Peterson are both charged with assault. They are scheduled to appear for a pre-trial hearing Thursday at 9:15 a.m. in Willoughby Municipal Court, records show.

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