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Ex-W.Va. police chief charged with stealing M-16s

SHINNSTON, W.Va. -- A former Shinnston police chief has been charged with stealing two fully automatic M-16 rifles from his former employer, the latest blow to a small West Virginia community whose police department has been hit with multiple scandals.

State Police have charged 75-year-old Donald William Book with two counts of grand larceny and two counts of receiving or transferring stolen goods.

The Exponent-Telegram (http://bit.ly/1380bh5) says Book was freed on $10,000 bond after an appearance Tuesday morning in Harrison County Magistrate Court.

Defense lawyer Jerry Blair accompanied his client and asked the court to consider his age and long, productive career.

Harrison County Prosecutor Joe Shaffer said he won't charge former Shinnston Police Chief Mike Secreto, who gave Book the rifles, but noted the incident has cost Secreto his job. City Council fired him in January.

Secreto had served as chief since 2001 and had been an officer since 1993.

Book's arrest is the latest in a string of problems for the tiny department, which serves a city of 2,200.

Earlier this week, sheriff's deputies charged 38-year-old officer Charles Roscoe Henning with stealing drugs. Media outlets say he faces seven counts of possessing a controlled substance by fraud, forgery, deception or subterfuge.

Henning allegedly stole hydrocodone from someone and removed medication before putting the bottle in the evidence locker. He was being held Wednesday on $175,000 bail at the North Central Regional Jail.

In December 2011, former Shinnston officer Kevin Junkins Jr. was charged with possession and intent to deliver hydrocodone, obtaining a controlled substance by fraud and other offenses. He's also charged with stealing money from the evidence room.

City Manager Debra Herndon told The Associated Press that municipal officials were saddened and distressed to learn of the arrest of Book, who was with the city for 35 years, many of them as chief, and was considered "a staple in the community."

However, he hasn't worked for Shinnston since 1998 and is now a private citizen, so Herndon said she couldn't comment further.

"When the city suspected some wrongdoing on the part of Officer Henning," she said, "we did contact the sheriff's department, and we certainly have fully cooperated with the investigation."

The Shinnston Police Department is down to three certified officers, including the acting chief, and Herndon said two newly hired men will start their 18-week training at the police academy next week.

City officials have talked with Acting Chief Jason Carlson about changing the hiring process, Herndon said, and they're seeking advice from other departments and agencies. The city will also add a physical fitness component to its hiring criteria and ask the county for help with background checks.

"I think in the past, we've depended too much on references from other department," Herndon said, "and that can be problematic because sometimes people just want to get rid of a troublesome employee, and they'll give you a good reference."


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