Growing number of gun cases concerns judge

LISBON – Preliminary hearings were reset Tuesday in Columbiana County Municipal Court in three cases involving people accused of illegally carrying firearms.

The increase in cases involving firearms did not go unnoticed by Judge Mark Frost, who at one point during one of the hearings noted the trend is troubling, especially after other gun-related crimes on a national level.

Assistant County Prosecutor Don Humphrey said the cases appearing in Municipal Court seem to have one of two common themes. Either police are finding guns during traffic stops or people are illegally carrying them into liquor establishments.

Frost questioned whether or not signs are still provided and posted at the door of bars and nightclubs informing the public about the law against carrying guns inside. Humphrey said he believes they are provided by the sheriff’s department.

“We are trying very hard to make it known to the public this will not be tolerated,” Humphrey said of his department’s stance on illegally handling guns.

In two of the cases in court on Tuesday, accusations were made involving two people having firearms at the Foxes Den in Salem on New Year’s Eve. Joshua R. Smith, 30, of Tippecanoe in Harrison County, is charged with illegal possession of a firearm in a liquor establishment, after he allegedly pointed a loaded handgun at the abdominal area of Robert C. Reynolds in a threatening manner while inside the nightclub shortly after the new year began.

Smith is also charged with misdemeanor charges of aggravated menacing and obstruction of official business.

During the same incident, two handguns were reportedly found in the purse of Kathryn L. Fisher, 32, Washington Avenue, Salem. Fisher was driving the vehicle Smith was riding in when police stopped them in the parking lot. She is charged with illegal possession of a firearm in a liquor establishment, a felony, and weapons while intoxicated, a misdemeanor charge.

In both of those cases, time waivers were signed and preliminary hearings were reset. Smith, represented by defense attorney James Hartford, had his preliminary hearing set for March 5. Fisher is scheduled to appear again on Feb. 12, represented by defense attorney Eric Kibler.

In a third case on Tuesday involving a firearm, Ryan D. Wilson, 27 Colonial Drive, Salem, is charged with improper transport of a weapon in a motor vehicle, as well as OVI first offense and marked lanes.

The weapon’s charge is a fifth-degree felony stemming from Wilson allegedly having loaded handgun in the center console of his vehicle along with his concealed carry permit.

His case was set for both pretrial and preliminary hearing on Feb. 7.