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City officer charged with criminal trespass

FORT WAYNE -- A Fort Wayne police officer is accused of breaking into a foreclosed home and taking a chain saw and gasoline cans from the property.

The officer was suspended and demoted in February but will not receive other administrative penalties if convicted, the city’s public safety director said.

Misdemeanor charges of criminal trespass and criminal conversion, filed Friday against Scott A. Criswell, 50, stem from an investigation that started in late 2013, according to a probable cause affidavit.

In August, Criswell was one of several Fort Wayne police officers who attended a gathering at another officer’s house near the foreclosed property, the report said.

A woman who along with her husband hosted the party told an Allen County detective that at some time during the evening she, Criswell and another woman went to the foreclosed home because Criswell was interested in buying it.

Once at the property, the three found some gas cans inside an open outbuilding. One of the women said Criswell placed the gas cans in the back of the ATV the group rode to the home, the affidavit said.

As the three walked around the house they found an unlocked, but chained, exterior basement door. One of the women told police she kicked the door open after Criswell could not get the chain off the door with a branch, according to the report.

The other woman told police the three were shocked the kick actually opened the door.

After the three made it into the home, Criswell went to an attached garage and returned with a chain saw in a case.

The incident came to light after it was reported internally in the Fort Wayne Police Department, said Rusty York, Fort Wayne’s director of public safety, who was still city police chief when the investigation started.

The affidavit also said a theft report was made from the property, but the connection between the person who reported the theft and the property was not provided.

“We contacted the Allen County Police Department and they conducted a lengthy investigation,” York said.

He said the police department gave Criswell a five-day suspension without pay in February as a result, and demoted him from a sergeant detective position to a uniformed patrol officer.

York said no further departmental penalties would be implemented, regardless of whether Criswell is convicted.