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In re L.G.

Court of Appeals of Ohio, Second District, Montgomery

May 12, 2017

IN RE: L.G.

         Civil Appeal from Common Pleas Court No. 2015-6610, Juvenile Division

          LYNNE R. NOTHSTINE, Atty. Reg. No. 0061560, Assistant Prosecuting Attorney Attorney for Plaintiff-Appellant.

          MICHAEL E. DEFFET, Atty. Reg. No. 0051976, Assistant Public Defender, Attorney for Defendant-Appellee

          OPINION

          FROELICH, J.

         {¶ 1} The State of Ohio appeals from a "decision and judgment" of the Montgomery County Court of Common Pleas, Juvenile Division, which suppressed statements that L.G. made when he was questioned by the Dayton Public Schools' Executive Director of Safety and Security about a bomb threat. For the following reasons, the juvenile court's decision will be affirmed.

         I. Factual and Procedural History

         {¶ 2} On October 27, 2015, a person called the Dayton Regional Dispatch Center and claimed that there was a bomb in Dayton's Longfellow Alternative School. The police contacted school officials, who immediately evacuated the school. The police also contacted Jamie Bullens, Dayton Public Schools' Executive Director of Safety and Security, who met police officers at the school.

         {¶ 3} As Executive Director of Safety and Security, Bullens, a retired detective with the Dayton Police Department, oversees 26 school resource officers, who are trained as peace officers. The school resource officers are qualified as special police officers, and they have the authority to arrest individuals for offenses that occur on school campuses; school resource officers carry handcuffs, but do not carry weapons. Bullens indicated that he works closely with law enforcement when incidents occur that school resource officers cannot handle. And, he is directed to work closely with the police department any time formal charges may be warranted.

         {¶ 4} Upon arriving at Longfellow, Bullens confirmed that the school had been evacuated, and he initiated a walkthrough. Bullens and Dayton Police Sergeant Keller had bomb-sniffing dogs sweep the building; the dogs found nothing. He and Sergeant Keller authorized the children to be brought into the school's gymnasium.

         {¶ 5} While the students were in the gymnasium, Bullens told them that he needed to know who had made this bomb threat. Bullens informed the students that there was an agreement with the Miami Valley Crime Stoppers Association, and it was offering a reward from $50 to $1, 000 for information leading to the person responsible for the bomb threat. Bullens then went to the school cafeteria.

         {¶ 6} Soon after, two individuals came forward to school officials implicating L.G., a thirteen-year-old seventh grader. Kerry Ivy, the school resource officer, and Jack Johnson, the principal, informed Bullens that there were two individuals he needed to speak to right away. The individuals were brought to the cafeteria, where they gave information to Bullens about the bomb threat and implicated L.G.

         {¶ 7} Bullens contacted Ivy and "had him go into the gymnasium with the information, the description of the individual we were looking for, and to retrieve that individual and bring him to the cafeteria." Ivy got L.G. from the gym, brought him to the cafeteria, and had L.G. sit across a table from Bullens. There, with two uniformed police officers standing nearby (closer to L.G. than to Bullens), Bullens questioned L.G. about his alleged involvement with the bomb threat. Bullens did not provide Miranda warnings prior to asking L.G. any questions.[1] Once confronted with the information provided by the two informants, L.G. confessed to calling in the bomb threat. When Bullens finished questioning L.G., L.G. was handed off to Officer Jeremy Stewart, one of the police officers who had been standing nearby and had witnessed the questioning. Officer Stewart placed L.G. under arrest and transported him in a cruiser to a police station for further questioning by Dayton police detectives.

         {¶ 8} The following day, the Dayton Police Department filed a complaint alleging that L.G. was a delinquent child for committing the offense of inducing panic under R.C. 2917.31(A)(1), a second-degree felony under R.C. 2917.31(C)(5). L.G. filed a motion to suppress the statements that he had made to Bullens, arguing that the questioning was not conducted with his (L.G.'s) consent and that he was not advised of his Miranda rights before the questioning. The matter was referred to a magistrate, who held an evidentiary hearing. After the hearing, the magistrate granted L.G.'s suppression motion. The State filed objections to the magistrate's decision with the juvenile court, arguing that L.G. was not in custody for Miranda purposes and that Miranda did not apply because Bullens was not a law enforcement officer or acting as an agent of law enforcement when he interviewed L.G. The juvenile court overruled the State's objections and sustained the motion to suppress. The court concluded that L.G. was in custody for Miranda purposes and that Bullens was acting as an agent of law enforcement.

         {¶ 9} The State appeals.

         II. Miranda Analysis

         {¶ 10} In ruling on a motion to suppress, the trial court "assumes the role of the trier of fact, and, as such, is in the best position to resolve questions of fact and evaluate the credibility of the witnesses." State v. Retherford,93 Ohio App.3d 586, 592, 639 N.E.2d 498 (2d Dist.1994); State v. Knisley, 2d Dist. Montgomery No. 22897, 2010-Ohio-116, ¶ 30. Accordingly, when we review suppression decisions, we must accept the trial court's findings of fact if they are supported by competent, credible evidence. Retherford at 592. "Accepting those facts as true, we must ...


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