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Bethlehem Officials: Department Policy Followed With Ott Situation

BETHLEHEM — The Bethlehem police officer who dropped off Frank Ott at a gas station following a Monday car accident said he seemed fine mentally and not in particular danger of being left on his own, and that he followed department policy during the situation.

Officer Rusty Jewell said Tuesday that the police department policy was for a person of apparently sound mind to be allowed to go on their own way after police made contact. Shortly before Ott was ultimately located and rescued, Jewell recounted the last time he had spoken with Ott the afternoon prior.

“I can’t stay with him all the time,” Jewell said. “First of all, EMS checked him out; he was fine, he was coherent, thought he might have had a sugar attack. They checked his sugar, that was fine. I put him in the car, drove him up here, explained what was going on. I told him to go inside, ask to use the phone, have someone come and get you.”

Ott, an 85-year-old Moundsville man, left the Marathon gas station where he was dropped off and was not found until Tuesday afternoon, following a search that lasted nearly 23 hours. Officials said Ott was alert, responsive and unharmed when found near the ballfields close to Interstate 470.

Jewell said he spoke with the Marathon’s manager Tuesday morning, and that Ott had made two phone calls to find a ride home. Before they arrived, the manager said, Ott wandered off on his own, but said Ott appeared coherent during the phone calls.

Bethlehem mayor Don Junkins said that Ott’s apparent sound mind at the time police spoke to him played a part in the decision to leave him to wait for his ride to arrive.

“He was in a good mental state, or he wouldn’t have left him there,” he said. “… We wouldn’t have left him if he was incoherent.”

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