Police charge former officer who arrested country star

By Linda Johnson
and Steve Lannen

ljohnson1@herald-leader.com, slannen@herald-leader.com
A former Lexington police officer pleaded not guilty Friday to charges of DUI and carrying a concealed weapon — the same charges for which he arrested country singer John Michael Montgomery in 2006.

Police arrested Joshua Cromer about 1 a.m. Friday in the parking lot of the Shillito Park Luxury Apartments complex at 3500 Beaver Place Road after he blocked a vehicle driven by a possible car thief from leaving the scene of a hit-and-run. Cromer also ran afoul of police nearly two years ago after a similar incident at the same apartments while suspended from the force.

Officers early Friday morning found Cromer blocking a vehicle’s path with his SUV. The occupants of the other vehicle had fled on foot, Lt. Dwayne Holman said.
When the officers talked to Cromer, “they realized he was impaired” and performed sobriety tests that Cromer failed, Holman said. His blood-alcohol level was measured at .147, according to the report. The legal limit for driving in Kentucky is .08.
Officers searched Cromer’s Nissan Pathfinder and found a handgun under a bulletproof vest in the front seat, according to the police report. Cromer did not have a concealed carry permit for the gun.
It appears from the report, Holman said, that Cromer “took some affirmative action to stop one of the vehicles from leaving” the parking lot.
Private citizens can make citizens’ arrests, but “we would obviously prefer those people become good witnesses,” Holman said.

In August 2006, while suspended from the department, Cromer detained an individual who was sleeping in his car at the apartment complex. After another officer arrested the man for alcohol intoxication, Cromer searched the man’s vehicle. As part of his suspension, Cromer was stripped of his powers to arrest and perform other law enforcement duties, so detaining the man and then searching his vehicle violated his suspension, according to charges brought against him by police officials.

On Friday afternoon, a Shillito Park Apartments property manager declined to discuss Cromer’s arrest, but did say he is employed by the apartments. She declined to discuss his duties.
Cromer bonded out of the Fayette County jail Friday morning after posting a $2,700 bond.
He declined comment and referred questions to defense attorney Fred Peters, who entered a not-guilty plea on Cromer’s behalf during an arraignment Friday afternoon in Fayette District Court.
Peters said it “doesn’t seem fair” that Cromer was charged when he was trying to prevent a car thief from leaving the scene of an accident. Peters said he doesn’t think the gun in Cromer’s vehicle was concealed.

Cromer was asleep inside his apartment when he heard a thud in the parking lot, Peters said. He went outside and realized a driver had hit another vehicle and was trying to escape. He got in his vehicle and tried to stop it from leaving, Peters said. A neighbor later told Cromer that the vehicle was stolen.
Cromer is scheduled to return to court at 10 a.m. July 2.

Cromer arrested Montgomery in 2006 after the performer left the Austin City Saloon and ran a red light. During the traffic stop, two guns were found in Montgomery’s Dodge pickup. He was charged with two counts of having a concealed deadly weapon, DUI and possession of a controlled drug. Montgomery, of Jessamine County, eventually entered an Alford plea to a drunken-driving charge, which means he did not admit guilt but acknowledged that prosecutors had enough evidence to convict him.

On Cromer’s MySpace.com page, some of the postings congratulated Cromer on the high-profile arrest. One officer posted an altered photograph of Montgomery and a fan, in which Cromer’s face had been substituted for the head of the fan.

The Urban County Council unanimously approved Cromer’s firing, citing misconduct, inefficiency, insubordination and conduct unbecoming a police officer. Cromer filed a lawsuit against the city seeking reinstatement and back pay. Cromer’s attorney, Shane Sidebottom, argued that Cromer’s firing was arbitrary and unjustified.

Fayette Circuit Judge Thomas Clark ruled in March 2008 that the city was justified in firing Cromer.

Staff writer Shawntaye Hopkins contributed to this report.

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