LORAIN, Ohio — Lorain Police Lt. Tabita Angello was climbing the ladder in a profession dominated by men. She was the department’s first female detective, first female sergeant and first female lieutenant. She was on the fast track to a high-profile career with Lorain Police until Sept. 21, when she was involved in a disturbance with two other off-duty officers in the alley behind the FOP Lodge.
Former Lorain Sgt. Kenneth Zapolski, a 28-year veteran of the department, was arrested and charged on Sept. 22, a day after the fight. He faces assault, domestic violence and menacing by stalking charges.
Now, a Lorain Police Department Office of Professional Standards Internal Investigation sheds light on what started the fight between Zapolski, Angello and another off-duty officer.
When Lorain police officers responded to the fight, they said Zapolski had allegedly assaulted Angello, who was his live-in girlfriend, and another off-duty officer. Police said none of the three were initially cooperative with the investigation, declining to make any statements or pursue charges.
Police were able to find surveillance footage from a nearby business that captured the assault. The footage showed Angello talking in the alley with an off-duty officer when Zapolski allegedly ran up and hit the officer in the face. The punch caused him to fall; that’s when Zapolski kicked and stomped him, police said. The recording also appeared to show Zapolski shoving Angello at least once, police said.
After being briefed on the incident, Lorain Police Chief Jim McCann ordered investigators to seek an arrest warrant for Zapolski. Simultaneously, McCann ordered that an internal, administrative investigation be initiated by the Department’s Office of Professional Standards.
Police said because Angello and Zapolski were not cooperating, McCann placed them both on administrative leave while an internal investigation was conducted. The two have been in a romantic relationship for years and lived with each other at the time according to police. McCann also ordered both Angello and Zapolski to turn over their departmental cell phones along with an administrative order not to tamper with or alter any data on the phones.
“They were not cooperating so I ordered their department cell phones taken, and from there we went into the cell phones and found all this information about what was going on,” McCann said.
Police said prior to turning over her cell phone, Angello was observed multiple times on body-camera footage manipulating her phone. The administrative investigation also found that Angello had deleted or tampered with 2.2 gigabytes of data after she had been ordered to turn over the department-issued cell phone.
A forensic download of Angell’s cell phone police said showed evidence of inappropriate texts and pictures between her and a subordinate. Evidence found on Angello’s phone led to McCann notifying the Lorain County Prosecutor’s Office about possible criminal charges.
Police said it was discovered Angello, while on-duty, had engaged in sex acts with one of her subordinate officers, a four-year veteran of the department who worked the night shift, Carlos Trujillo. The sexual rendezvouses between Angello and this officer happened at least three different times while on-duty as well as other off-duty incidents, according to police.
"I've been here going on 31 years and I’ve never seen anything like this in my career,” McCann said.
It was also discovered, police said, that Angello was also romantically involved with a convicted drug trafficker. The OPS investigation discovered Angello had engaged in sexual conduct with this felon several times while on duty.
"She had sex with a convicted drug dealer at least 5 but not more than 10 times, we could show, while on duty,” McCann said.
Angello was found guilty of multiple administrative violations, including nine counts of gross misconduct.
She resigned in lieu of termination to the City of Lorain’s Safety Service Director on Nov. 10. Her resignation was accepted, and she is no longer employed by the City of Lorain.
As a result of the Lorain County Prosecutor’s criminal investigation, Angello was criminally indicted by the Lorain County Grand Jury last week on two counts of tampering with evidence, a third-degree felony; two counts of tampering with records, a third-degree felony; obstructing official business, a second-degree misdemeanor; and three counts of unauthorized use of the Law Enforcement Automated Database System, a fifth-degree felony.
We reached out to Angello’s attorney twice and did not hear back. The FOP declined to comment.
Zapolski was found guilty of multiple administrative violations, including one count of gross misconduct. He retired from the Lorain Police Department on Nov. 3, prior to his pre-disciplinary hearing. He was not involved in the sexual portion of this investigation according to McCann.
His criminal case regarding the incident on Sept. 21, is ongoing in the Lorain Municipal Court. A Special Prosecutor has been appointed by the Lorain Law Director to prosecute the case.
Trujillo was found guilty of multiple administrative violations, including three counts of gross misconduct. His employment with the Lorain Police Department was terminated on Monday, November 14, 2022.
"Transparency is the hallmark of my three years being chief. The public deserves to know what we're doing when we do good, when we do bad, when we fail and when we succeed. They have the right to know," said McCann.
“The decision to recommend terminating the three officers involved in this investigation was not made lightly, even though two of the three chose to resign in disgrace in lieu of termination. Nevertheless, a clear message has been sent to the officers of the Lorain Police Department and to members of the public, that such repugnant conduct will not be tolerated at the Lorain Police Department. I have taken proactive measures to rid the agency of any disgraceful conduct committed by my officers. My officers are here to serve the public with honor and respect, and I will continue to mandate the high standards that I expect from them. The Lorain Police Department will continue to take a zero-tolerance approach for violations stemming from a lack of integrity. We will continue to be transparent and to work hard to maintain and sustain the support of those who trust us to serve and to do the right thing,” added McCann.
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