COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) – One Franklin County Sheriff’s deputy has been fired and another has been given a second chance after fighting while on the job.
The corrections deputies, who started their jobs on the same day in November 2019, fought each other.
More than three months ago, the sheriff’s office placed Jonah Meehan and Ronald Walling on paid leave. Walling was fired on March 23, and Meehan received his unpaid suspension and what’s called a “last chance agreement” on April 6. Meehan is set to return to work on April 21.
Meehan claims tensions ensued because Walling often questioned his job performance and would embarrass him in front of other deputies.
A weeks-long investigation concluded with considerations for termination after it found both men used “unprofessional language” while on the job and engaged in a “physical fight.”
The incident happened on Jan. 5 at around 11 p.m. Cameras captured a typical shift for Franklin County Sheriff’s deputies, processing inmates at the Correction Center on Jackson Pike and taking care of other assigned duties.
But, in the “north closet,” where there are no cameras, the sheriff’s office said an argument took place between Meehan and Walling.
During an internal affairs investigation, Meehan described what he said happened.
“I didn’t even face him at all,” he told investigators. “I was still – I don’t — messing it with my stuff, I don’t know what I was doing. And he walks up to my right side.”
The report said the argument “escalated to an altercation.” Meehan said Walling first grabbed and then squeezed his arm.
“I said, ‘Get off me,’ at the same time,” Meehan said. “I reach up. I think I grabbed his shirts, tried to push him back from me and immediately he snaps.”
Walling told internal affairs another version of events.
“I would put my hand on his shoulder,” Walling said. “’Meehan, are we going to be alright?’ He turned towards me slowly, I say it’s quarter-way and he said something along the lines of, ‘Why don’t you… know what,’ or something on that and that’s when he engaged with me, that point in time.”
“And by engaged with you, what do you mean by that?” the investigator asked.
“He grasped me right here,” Walling said. “He took hold to dragging me, he took hold of my chest.”
Internal affairs spoke with several witnesses and fellow employees, and on March 1, sent notices that Franklin County Sheriff Dallas Baldwin was considering terminating both men.
A letter to Walling said he was “not truthful” during his interview with internal affairs, that three separate witnesses refuted his line of events, and that another deputy who was interviewed refuted the claim that Meehan attacked him first.
After the Jan. 5 incident, Meehan went home. A letter to him from the assistant human resources director said he “failed to report what happened to supervision” and only did so after being contacted by his lieutenant.
This week, the sheriff’s office confirmed the suspensions and firing.
The letter to Walling also said he was being reprimanded for going to the booking area versus the post where he was assigned.
A Fraternal Order of Police spokesperson said Walling is appealing his termination.