COLUMBUS (WCMH) — A firefighter has been placed on leave without pay after being charged with sexual conduct with a minor.
According to court documents, Walter Lash, 54, is charged with unlawful sexual conduct with a minor, and importuning on a telecommunication device with a minor.
The charges stem from a sting that began a couple weeks ago. Investigators said Lash communicated online with who he thought was a 15-year-old girl and agreed to meet her for sex.
It turns out, the ‘teen’ was actually a member of the Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force. That task force arrested Lash when they say he tried to meet the teen.
“I can tell you at this point, in what we’ve looked at right now, we don’t believe that there are any other victims out there, but we’ll continue to work on this case and try to identify,” said Chief Deputy Rick Minerd, of the Franklin County Sheriff’s Office.
Lash was given a $15,000 bond and is scheduled to be in court again March 6, at 9am.
NBC4’s Dan Pearlman was at the Franklin County Jail as Lash was released on bail. He refused to comment, other than to say he disputes the charges.
A statement from the Columbus Division of Fire tonight confirms the arrest and charges against firefighter Walt Lash. “This is devastating news to the division, and is in no way representative of the values that define us as public servants.
“Lash will be afforded due process in court as anyone would be, and then will face appropriate actions by the division of fire. He was immediately placed on leave without pay,” said Battalion Chief Steve Martin.
Lash was also recently hired as a softball coach in Pickerington schools. He is also now banned from stepping foot on school property.
The district sent the following statement:
The Pickerington Local School District received a tip yesterday afternoon that Walt Lash was arrested. The district confirmed with the Franklin County Sheriff that this did take place. The district immediately reached out to Mr. Lash to inform him that he was being placed on Leave and was not to be on any Pickerington Local School District premises or engage in any coaching activities.
The Pickerington Local School district is sickened to hear of these allegations. Maintaining the safety and security of our students is paramount and when we hire coaches to work with our kids we all want to believe that they are upstanding individuals. Mr. Lash was a volunteer coach for the Softball program last season and was recently approved on 1/27/20 as a paid coach for the Softball program.