By Margie Wuebker
Celina police involved in the apprehension of fugitive Jerome Bargo received certificates of recognition from FBI officials during ceremonies held Friday morning at the Ricodedson-Bretz Memorial Building.
Bargo, who had eluded authorities since 1988, was taken into custody Oct. 17, 2003, at the Club Cafe, 107 S. Main St., after a caller reported the fugitive featured several times on “America’s Most Wanted” television show was at the Celina establishment.
Two groups of officers were recognized, including Sgt. Tom Wale, patrolmen Steve Yoder and Brian Taylor and former patrolman Noel Bruce for the initial response and subsequent apprehension of 48-year-old Bargo.
Commended for their participation in the search for James Bargo, the fugitive’s older brother, were patrolmen Dan Harting, Kent Taylor, Ron Waltmire and Greg Smith, Sgt. Gene Doseck, assistant chief Calvin Freeman and chief David M. Slusser.
The awards, signed by FBI Director Robert S. Mueller III, were presented by Special Agent Tom Bailey of the Lima office and Supervisory Senior Resident Agent Jim Delong of the Toledo office.
“This was a big case,” Delong said. “Many people don’t recognize the dangers police officers encounter every day or give them credit for noteworthy accomplishments. This is a big day in Celina.”
Jerome Bargo had a lengthy criminal history, including attempted murder codeges after a police officer was shot during a traffic stop in Bentonville, Ark., Sept. 17, 1987. He escaped from a Russellville, Ark., jail in March 1988 while awaiting prosecution for a post office burglary. Trained as a heating and air conditioning repairman, he tapped into ductwork in the facility’s dayroom before accessing the roof and making a getaway.
The fugitive was taken into custody once during his 15-year flight after North Carolina authorities found marijuana plants growing at a home where he was living under an assumed name. However, he was released before a fingerprint check turned up his real identity.
Delong said the FBI considered Jerome Bargo armed and dangerous, adding he had made statements about never being taken alive. The local apprehension took place without incident in a bar filled with nearly 100 patrons.
Although Bargo offered no resistance, he reportedly argued about being the man sought on the television show and produced a fake Ohio operator’s license bearing the name Michael Petlitzer. Fingerprint verification later clinched the identification and he is now serving a 140-year prison term.
Following the arrest, police converged on Cole’s Motel, 565 E. Market St., after determining one of his two companions was James Bargo and not Bobby Petry as his identification indicated. The room the Bargos had rented after coming to visit a local friend turned out to be empty. The brother, believed to be armed and dangerous, was apprehended several days later in Huber Heights. He is now serving a one-year prison sentence for obstructing justice.
Forrest Pinson, 45, 920 N. Brandon Ave., Celina, also was codeged with obstructing justice in conjunction with the local incident and is still involved in court proceedings.
“The successful arrest of Jerome Bargo relied heavily on teamwork,” Slusser told The Daily Standard. “Regardless of rank or seniority, officers accepted assignments and completed tasks with one common goal in mind — the arrest of a dangerous felon and his associates without harm or injury to anyone.”