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EBENSBURG – Former Johnstown Police Department Officer William Slisz said there's not a day that goes by that he doesn't regret his actions that lead to a 2016 incident in which he was charged for overdosing on narcotics stolen from the department's temporary evidence locker.
Slisz, 35, was sentenced Thursday on charges related to that incident – burglary and tampering with evidence – which he pleaded guilty to in January.
Senior Judge Timothy Creany ordered incarceration for nine months, followed by more than three years of probation. Slisz will serve the nine months of incarceration by house arrest to prevent the risk involved with being housed alongside defendants he arrested in years past, Creany said.
Creany also enforced a $1,000 fine, payment of $8,334 in restitution associated with video equipment the department installed to conduct the investigation of Slisz, random and frequent drug testing, and 50 hours of community service.
Creany suggested Slisz complete that community service speaking to schools and treatment facilities about his experience with addiction.
A state police report stated that Slisz was found unresponsive under a table in the roll call room of the department's Public Safety Building on Sept. 18, 2016, where first responders eventually administered Narcan, an antidote used to reverse the effects of an opioid overdose, before he was taken to Conemaugh Memorial Medical Center.
Slisz was accused of obtaining an envelope containing 48 suspected stamp bags of heroin and six pills from a temporary evidence locker, where drugs were stored before being transferred by an evidence custodian to a secure evidence room at a later time, as outlined by the department's procedure.
State police said Slisz entered a men's locker room, removed ceiling tiles and climbed over a wall into the office of the administrative sergeant, one of two custodians with a key fob to the secured evidence room. Slisz was unsuccessful in trying to access the secured evidence room through the ceiling, state police said, apparently with the intention of getting more narcotics from inside.
A hammer state police say Slisz took from the administrative sergeant's office was found near him when he was discovered unresponsive. A hole investigators believe was made by Slisz was found in the wall between the roll call room and the secured evidence room.
Cambria County District Attorney Kelly Callihan issued a report that said morphine, commonly detected from the breakdown of heroin and codeine, was found in Slisz's system.
Slisz's attorney, Art McQuillan, said Slisz is nearing 18 months of sobriety and has accepted responsibility for his actions from the time charges were filed, voluntarily enrolling in drug treatment and outpatient therapy.
"I think this case illustrates that this addiction cycle that's sweeping our region, our state, our nation, does not discriminate," McQuillan said.
"Bill has met this addiction head on – he hasn't run from it. He's been humbled by this experience."
Slisz, an Air Force veteran, said he may have been affected by PTSD symptoms that made him more susceptible to begin using alcohol and eventually drugs.
"I never wanted to become that person," Slisz said.
"The person I became was the person I was trying to get off the streets of Johnstown. I'd like to become a success story in today's world of addiction."
Current Johnstown police Chief Robert Johnson also testified, telling Creany the region's drug crisis is crushing the department and pointed to the collateral of Slisz's actions, including the scrutiny of former Chief Craig Foust's retirement and the entire department.
"He can walk away from this, but those of us wearing this badge cannot," Johnson said.
Callihan's report says Slisz began using heroin and removing evidence from the temporary locker as early as in the fall of 2015 and eventually escalated into him removing items from the secured room.
First Assistant District Attorney Heath Long presented Creany a list of 28 criminal cases affected by evidence Slisz tampered with, 21 of which were dismissed and seven that required reduced pleas.
In addition, Callihan said drug evidence was taken from other cases, including those in which evidence was placed in the temporary evidence locker before being officially logged.
Discrepancies were found in 16 police investigations from 2013 to 2016, which included more than 1,000 missing stamp bags of heroin, according to findings from state police and Callihan's office.