Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Teacher's fake resume was only the beginning

Part two of our series aired tonight ... watch it now:



Tonight .. I've spoken with some folks closer to Terril, and I'm learning that his levels of deception show no barrier he was unwilling to cross. I'm floored at what he was able to pull off even outside of his military masquerade.

One veteran told me today that he hopes others in uniform will pack the courtroom when this guy goes before a judge. We'll see what happens.

More to come .. Eric

Teacher who faked military career draws variety of comments

I'm still wading through all of the voicemails and emails after last night's story. Part 1 is drawing a slew of responses .. in case you missed it, here ya go:




School leaders were shocked by our findings. Hear their reaction tonight in Part 2 on Channel 3 News at 6.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Ryan says House Republicans reneged on handshake deal

Tim Ryan (D-17) offered himself up by phone this afternoon shortly after the bailout plan died, so I dialed in to ask a few questions.

If you haven't heard, the $700 billion bailout bill failed 228 to 205 with more than half of Democrats but only a third of Republicans providing support.

Ryan told me that a handshake deal was in place before the vote, but it fell through when it came time to vote. Under the agreement, Ryan claims that each side of the aisle agreed to provide about half of the votes needed to pass the issue so that the country and the markets would feel that it had bipartisan support.

"Otherwise we wouldn't have voted," Ryan said. "It can’t be that the Democratic Caucus jammed this through Congress. We gotta figure this out so we can get some more votes here and unlock these credit markets."

Ryan said that there was no way Democrats were going to provide all the votes to pass this bill just so Republicans could criticize it if it didn't get off to a fast start.

I asked Ryan about the "golden parachutes" for CEOs and whether the defeated bill adequately addressed fears that the rich would get richer, and Ryan admitted he wasn't completely sold on the language that covered CEOs but felt it was solid enough for the bill to go forward.

Still, the bill died.

"Obviously (Sen. John) McCain couldn’t swing the votes and the President couldn't swing the votes," Ryan said.

I asked Ryan if we're reaching the point where individual Dems might start calling individual Republicans, and he didn't rule it out.

"Maybe the Dems can put together our own plan and pass it. This may be (Treasury) Secretary Paulson's worst nightmare if he gets $700 Billion and all the oversight needed and the CEOs are limited as to what their pay can be, especially when the Republican leadership continues trashing (House Speaker) Nancy Pelosi for not delivering."

Ryan said nothing will get done now until at least Thursday as Congress breaks for several days for Jewish Holidays. In the meantime, Ryan said he is just left shaking his head as to Washington's priorities.

"We were denied $35 billion for 10 years for health care for kids because we were told that we didn't have the money, and then to turn around and ask for $700 billion for this?" Ryan said. "That’s a hell of a pill to swallow."

Phony veteran highlights loopholes in system

I'm really proud of the reporting that went into tonight's story about a local teacher who were exposing as a fake war hero. Not that I did anything special by using public records to expose an actor posing as a veteran, but that our story will illuminate a bigger issue: we as a society need better oversight of just who is teaching our children.

The basics:

Benjamin Terril was arrested on Labor Day for pointing a loaded gun at another man's head in South Akron. Terril teaches Science at Buchtel High School, so his arrest became newsworthy. Police found drugs, dozens of guns and even some grenades in Terril's home, which begged the question of "just who is this guy?"

So a few days after his arrest, I began to dissect Terril's employment history, and here's what I discovered:

In 1996, Benjamin Terril applied for a teaching job with the Akron Public Schools. He submitted a resume claiming he served in the 82nd Airborne Division from 1975-1991 and included a letter of reference with claims he was wounded in Desert Storm. If true, that would qualify Terril for the purple heart.

What's awful is that none of it is true, and the Akron Public Schools NEVER verified his resume before hiring him.

The district also didn't verify another job Terril put on his resume (a range officer with Broward County, FL) that we also found to be false.

In both cases, I used public records and phone calls to determine that Terril's resume was bogus, so why didn't APS?

Additionally, I used public records to determine that Terril lied about having a clean criminal history. He has prior arrests and convictions, including a felony conviction, that no knew about until I checked it out.

To the credit of APS, the laws in 1996 only mandated a local background check (Summit County) which came back clean. Terril was able to hide his criminal past because his crimes included an arrest in Stark County (misdemeanor conviction for DUI) and another in Florida (Felony conviction for Carrying a Concealed Weapon).

Since he had a verifiable teaching degree from the U. of Akron with strong recommendations from his student teaching assignments, I can only guess that the folks who did the hiring assumed that Terril was worth the investment and didn't check out the rest of his resume before hiring him.

If true, that's a bad reason for cutting corners.

For what it's worth, the employment file indicates that human resources did ask Terril for a copy of his DD214, which is the form that verifies military service. There's no evidence that Terril ever provided any evidence nor is there anything to indicate the the district followed up with its initial request for more info.

Military fakes burn real veterans to the core

I had a chance to sit down with a local man who served in the real 82nd Airborne in Desert Storm, and he put Terril's make-believe war service into perspective.

He told me that phonies don't discredit the military as much as they discredit the person who is living a double life. How can they ever be trusted again?

As a soldier and veteran, it bothers me when others misrepresent themselves, but it really burns when someone goes to the lengths that Terril did. Some troops will embellish what they actually did on the field of battle; even the military has been guilty of stretching the truth to make a story sound better than it is (Jessica Lynch, Pat Tillman, etc.). Yet, when someone like Terril goes the extra steps to use the military as a job reference and then add the extra chest-thumping details of serving in the 82nd Airborne -- to include being wounded in combat -- that's hard for many in uniform to fathom.

Under the Stolen Valor Act signed by President Bush a few years ago, anyone who misrepresents themselves as a veteran can be charged with a misdemeanor and serve up to one year in prison.

I was skeptical from the moment I looked at Terril's resume. If he lied about his criminal history, why wouldn't he lie about his work history?

When I saw his resume indicated that he worked with the "Eighty Second Airborne" I suspected it was fake. Rarely does anyone affiliated with the military ever spell it out like that. It's nearly always "82nd Airborne". How could this guy spend 15+ years in the military and not know that?

Also, rarely does anyone leave the military voluntarily at 15+ years. If you serve 20 years of active service, you're eligible for a military pension. So his separation date was also a red flag to me.

School district oversight

Superintendent David James is at least in a position where he can blame the previous administration for hiring Terril and promise to do a better job of screening future teachers. The district is also conducting new, mandatory FBI checks on all employees. Terril's new check was set for the fall of 2009 to coincide with his teaching license being up for renewal. The district believes that at the very least, a new background check would have uncovered Terril's past convictions.

Within Terril's teaching file was a reprimand for threatening to bring a shotgun to school and kill a student. Several teachers heard him and reported it.

Anyone surprised that a statement like that didn't warrant a stronger penalty? or at least a transfer to another school?

I feel like I could write about this all day ... but we'll let the story -- and Terril -- speak for themselves. Still, I'd like your initial thoughts.

Part 1 is tonight on Channel 3 at 6. Part 2 airs Tuesday night at 6.

Eric

Friday, September 26, 2008

Coming Tonight -- a local fake is exposed!

Palin's interview leaves much to debate while Biden's gaffe makes many roll their eyes

After watching Katie Couric's interview with Gov. Sarah Palin, a few things come to mind.

Watch Part 1 here:



Watch Part 2 here:


Watch CBS Videos Online

First, I just don't feel that I know her positions any better now than I did before she began chatting with Katie. Palin quotes support for John McCain's policies but seems disheveled on some of the specific foreign policy questions. Maybe it's just nerves.

Second, I didn't quite understand her chest-thumping about keeping America safe should Russia's President Vladimir Putin or other Russian aircraft fly into U.S. airspace saying:


"It's Alaska. It's just right over the border. It is from Alaska that we send those out to make sure that an eye is being kept on this very powerful nation,
Russia, because they are right there, they are right next to our tate. "


When Palin says send those out, it sounds as though she talking about sending U.S. aircraft out to ensure our airspace stays safe.

Since when would that be the Governor's job?

While as Governor, Palin is charged with using Alaska's National Guard in a state emergency, it would NOT be her job nor would she have the authority to order military planes into the air to keep tabs on a foreign military force. That authority belongs solely to the Federal government and the White House.

If she's just wanting a pat because the Federal troops are located in her home state, then that seems a bit hollow because she really didn't have a choice in the matter. It just comes with being Governor of Alaska. I certainly understand Governor's taking credit of troops in their home state doing a good job (Stickland praising the flights from Wright-Pat into Iraq for example) but is she trying to say she has a hand in the Alaska fighter planes' missions?

Does anyone else interpret her response that way? or am i way out in Bering Sea somewhere?

Third, Palin mentions getting credit for foreign policy experience because her state is wedged between Russia and Canada. Now, she's never been to Russia but she has been to Canada. So wouldn't that make the Governors of all the northern states (Washington, Minnesota, etc.) that share a border with the Maple Leafs just as qualified when it comes to foreign policy as she is?

Fourth, I did learn more about her with her comments about Israel. Sort of.

While Palin got a bit "stumbly" with Katie, I think the Governor was trying to say that the U.S. could make its preferences known to Israel without second-guessing how Israel conducts itself with regards to Iran. I'd be surprised if Palin doesn't rework that argument and practice a cleaner response prior to her debate with Sen. Joe Biden.

That's my take on the interview .. what did you notice?

By the way, did you see Biden's mistep in talking about the past? If not, it's a classic and perfect for the Daily Show ... check it out here:

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Behind-the-scenes of Biden's Wooster visit

My one-on-one with Vice-Presidential candidate Joe Biden last week was really only the last 20 minutes of my visit to Wooster for his campaign stop. The day -- and the event itself -- offered a unique view of what's happening along the campaign trail.

For starters, the crowd was much larger than viewers at home could tell. Many of the college folks got in line around 3 p.m. to begin going through security checks, even though Biden wasn't expected to talk until around 6:30 p.m. I thought that those in line had shown up a bit too early, but turns out, they were right on the money.
The space around the stage filled up quickly leaving many of the 4,500 in attendance outside the barriers looking in (see photo). Some never got through the security checks, so they just sat down on the grass and listened to what they could hear in the distance.

When Biden finally arrived, I found myself near the woman running the prompter for the Senator's stump speech. As Biden took the stage, he opened with a few one liners and then got off script .. and stayed off script .. and eventually the nice lady with the prompter looked left at a Biden staffer who seemed to say "welcome to the world of political speeches."

I doubt the crowd ever knew Biden was drifting to side-stories, as is Biden's style, but to stand by the prompter and see how much was written rhetoric and how much as was off the cuff provided a unique perspective. I'd say Biden was a surprising 50-50.
Unlike Obama's visit from a few weeks ago, I noticed that the chairs in the press pool area were fairly empty. I found out that the networks were using one pool ca
mera for Biden's speeches, and the only network reporter still traveling with Biden was NBC's Ron Allen (sitting at the computer nearest my
camera.)

Now, I realize that when it comes to the VP circuit, Gov. Sarah Palin seems to get the most attention these days (even though she does but one interview per week, but that's for another post). Still, with all that's at stake in this election, shouldn't there still be a decent following for Biden?
My one-on-one interview with Biden was certainly different than the interviews I've had with other political players, including Sen. Obama from a few weeks ago. Usually, the pool of reporters granted back-stage interviews are taken to a side room after the event. That's where we wait for the interviewee to come by and grant us each a certain amount of questions or time.
This is what John McCain did in Cleveland earlier this week .. and it's what Obama did in New Philadelphia a few weeks back.


When I was taken past Secret Service to the interview room, I immediately noticed how quiet it was. I assumed I was just the first reporter to arrive, but 10 minutes later, I realized that I was it. No other reporters were coming. So, at least on this night, anything Biden told me would truly be "exclusive". Of course, I really only think it's worth using that word when it's truly valid ... and genuinely exclusive to our newsroom. Otherwise, TV newsrooms overuse the word when it's really not necessary.
I still don't know if I was the only reporter invited or if the other invited reporters left the event early to make deadline and just weren't around. Either way, I didn't care. I was just glad to be backstage.
As I peeked out a third-floor window, I could see that Biden was still shaking hands and wasn't in any hurry to get upstairs to talk to a journalist.
When I turned around, a Secret Service officer touched his earpiece, looked at me, and then said "we're moving." I was shuttled down the back stairs and out on to a lawn near Biden's bus. A communications officer told me that Biden would still grant the interview, but because I was the only one, he'd like to do it near the bus so he could keep the night moving.
At first, I found it odd that a VP Candidate would rather have a dark, outdoor background by a bus rather than be interviewed next to the tradition American flag with good indoor lighting.

About 20 minutes later, Biden came strolling across the lawn and introduced himself (like I wouldn't know who he was) and then asked me where I served in Iraq. "Excuse me Senator?" I said. "Thanks for your service. Where were you stationed?"

Long story short, I deduced that one of the Secret Service agents had recognized me and had mentioned my service to Biden. With Biden's own son headed into harm's way, we shared a few minutes of military chat before turning on the cameras for the formal interview. I won't say that Biden's candor through me off my game, but to be honest, I wasn't expecting that kind of reception and it set the stage for a more relaxed interview for both of us.
I expected that he would limit me to two questions, or five minutes, something like that. Instead, he said "ask away, whatever you want to talk about."
Biden never missed a beat talking the issues as I asked him about ways to keep more Ohio college students in the buckeye state for higher education, ways to help Ohio businesses resist the temptation to head south, ways to help with Ohio's foreclosure crisis, and ways to even out the benefits for Guardsmen and Reservists along with their Active-duty counterparts. I'll let the viewers (and you, the readers) listen to his answers and decide for yourself whether it can really make a difference.
I got the impression that Biden's staff would have preferred I wrap up after two questions, but Biden just kept our conversation going .. and even when I ended it, he seemed to want to talk longer.
So .. was it an exclusive? I guess so.. At least by definition. I don't think he said anything that was worth conjuring that moniker, so it's not the word I would use to describe it. If anything, I wanted it to be focused on real issues in Northeast Ohio and not just going for the quick quip of Biden jabbing at Palin.
I'll leave that for the network pool reporters .. at least for those that decide to follow him.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

John McCain speaks one-on-one with Channel 3 News

Sen. John McCain granted a one-on-one interview with our Senior Political Correspondent, Tom Beres, today.

Obviously this is a big week for McCain as the first debate with Sen. Barack Obama is slated for Friday.

Watch it in it's entirety.

Me and Katie Couric ... sort of ...

Other than we both get paid for working on TV, Katie Couric and I don't have much in common .. until now.

Last week, the anchor of the CBS Evening News was in Akron covering one of Joe Biden's campaign stops. During the visit, Couric did what few big time anchors would ever do -- she took a camera into her own hands to get video of the event and conduct interviews.

Across the country, TV news reporters -- including those at Channel 3 and elsewhere -- are learning this same technique known as Backpack Journalism (BPJ) or Multi-Media Journalism (MMJ).

Last month, I attended training along with 39 other Gannett reporters on how to use hand-held video cameras to generate more content for our website and broadcasts. It's the wave of the future. Everyone contributes in every way. Shooting, editing, writing, you-name-it .. as much as is practical.

Now .. I'm not foolish enough to think that Katie is going to be shooting a majority of her own stuff from here forward .. and obviously there was another camera crew with her that shot the video of her with her camera. Still, it's another reminder that our business of TV News is getting smaller and faster .. and those not willing to be multi-purpose risk being shut out.

To see all of Katie's story -- including what she shot herself -- click here. It's very well done .. as the network dedicated more time to Biden's visit to Akron than the local TV stations did.

Years ago .. I was impressed when Ted Koppel shot his own material with Bill Clinton for Nightline. There was only room for one reporter in Clinton's Presidential limo, so Koppel shot it himself.

Anderson Cooper has also been lugging a camera around for quite a while .. especially on his overseas jaunts to the jungles or desert. (photo courtesy: http://www.obliquity65.com/) All of it for additional footage to what his assigned photographer was capturing. I now have the same Sony mini DV camera that Anderson uses, although I'm not quite as good at shooting with it as he is.
Will BPJ/MMJ sustain the test of time? I don't know yet .. but I think it most likely will as our business fights to stay afloat. I know that one month of using the camera and editing with my own material has already made me a better journalist.

As for Katie and me .. well, I doubt she'll want to swap paychecks for a week .. but hey, I'm game if she is!

Iraqi boy's smile is hard to capture in words

Living with a 14-year-old boy -- my oldest son -- I thought I knew a lot about the emotions of your basic teenager male.

That was until yesterday when I met another 14-year-old boy named Majid Sabora, whose smile is just contagious. ("Majid" is pronounced like "Magic.")

He was seriously injured by a roadside bomb in Iraq in February of 2004, and his trip to Akron the next year to get a new set of prosthetic legs from Yanke Bionics was well-covered by the press, including three separate stories by three different reporters at Channel 3.

He's grown a lot since we last saw him as an 11-year-old who was happy to finally be mobile again.

Since returning to Iraq with his new legs, Majid has learned to ride a bike and even play goalie on his school soccer team.

Now .. Majid's back in Akron. He's literally outgrown his legs and needs a new set. The staff at Yanke Bionics sees amputees on a daily basis, but I could tell they have a special place in their hearts for Majid.

Since he'll be staying in town for a few months, I'd love to see him get to visit with the U of A's nationally-ranked men's soccer team before he returns to Iraq later this fall. I'd love to see him get to do just about anything because it's obvious he enjoys life.

Here's a kid who could so easily just hate life for what's happened to him, but yet he smiles at every turn and is quick to show off how much English he's learned. He couldn't wait to get moving on those new legs.
I just can't help but be touched by his spirit. It's a similar spirit to that of Andy Holcomb who also knows how to turn a smile and uplifting conversation into something that lifts all of those around them.
So it's hard to find the words .. and I'm not sure my story on tonight's newscast (now the 4th TV3 reporter to follow his journey) will even do Majid's journey the justice he deserves. Still, I won't soon forget this wonderful lad with the big smile nor the local angels who are working to make Majid's world better.
.. and I pray that his every step be one of joy.

This guy is going to put me out of business ...

If only the real news was done like this .. at least, some of the time ... and you can find more of his work by clicking here.

Enjoy .. Eric


video

Monday, September 22, 2008

Betsy Kling returns to Channel 3 News tonight!

I'm really glad to welcome back Betsy Kling to the Channel 3 News team. She returns tonight following her maternity leave.

That said .. I'm really, really, REALLY glad to have her back so folks will stop asking me, "hey, when is Betsy coming back?" :)

In all seriousness, we've certainly missed Betsy's fun-loving spirit around the newsroom .. and seeing her as a new mom is a joy all its own.

Welcome back Betsy!

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

The Biden interview

It's 9:49 p.m. and I'm just back to the office .. after a long day covering Joe Biden's campaign stop in Wooster.

After his speech, I was granted the only interview .. speaking to Biden on-camera for nearly 10 minutes, and then off-camera for another 10 -- before he boarded his bus for the hotel.

The entire interview will be up on wkyc.com in just a bit ... so you can watch it in its entirety there ... and I'll blog about it tomorrow, including some of the behind-the-scenes moments.

Tired tonight ... but glad to have had access to ask Biden about some real issues facing NE Ohio:


  • keeping local students from leaving Ohio because college is more affordable in neighboring states
  • helping area families who've faced foreclosures to get back into homes again
  • how to help Ohio win the "civil war" with the southern states that are luring our companies to leave town
  • ways to balance the benefits for the thousands of Ohio Guardsmen and Reservists so that they get the same treatment as the Active Duty.
Watch it and decide for yourself.



More tomorrow .. Eric

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Palin's CAK "visit" manipulates the media

I hated that we had to cover Sarah Palins' "visit" to the Akron area Monday. As I noted in a previous post, she was only visible for a few minutes and didn't interact with the public, nor did she speak.

Yet ... did you see the size of the color photo on the front of the ABJ's community section? It shows Palin, her husband, and a local Gold Star mother. It's the best video of the whopping 235 second event .. and the same shot the TV stations showed as well.

Best shot of the event? Sure. But it was also absolute, pure manipulation.

Story behind the story

What the viewers and readers didn't know is that Palin's staff passed out a list of the people who would be at the stairs of the plane to meet her. A local politician, a motivated young staffer, and a few other community folks were on the list .. but the media eyes were absolutely driven to see the name of Pvt. Heath Warner's mother, Mellisa, at the bottom of the list. Under her name was a few sentences about her son and a note that she was a Gold Star mother.

Palin worked the line with a few autographs, got to the end, and hugged this Gold Star mother for all the cameras.

Bingo! Instant press moment without having to do a thing.

My point is that it was all contrived for the cameras. If Palin -- the mother of an Iraq soldier herself -- was so compelled to meet Mellisa Warner, Palin could have invited Warner to ride along with her to the fundraiser. Or maybe invite her to fund raiser. Or a hundred other things. Her words and heart may have been genuine during her 1:00 with Mellisa Warner, but truth is, she could have done it privately.

Instead, Palin made sure the media was watching, interacted with her just long enough to make it look genuine, and then beat feet with a wave to the crowd.

If the media had seen her hug a stranger and then later we asked and were told it was a GS mother, that's one thing. But for Palin's folks to stage the entire event in front of us knowing it was the only video/picture worth reporting is pure manipulation.

For all it's worth .. President Bush has met with quite a few Gold Star mothers, including many here in the area, but rarely makes the meetings public for a photo op. If the families take photos, that's fine. But Bush -- to my knowledge -- never set it up ahead of time for the media to use.

But Monday .. that was "staged" news to play on the public's emotions .. and it was pure manipulation.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Teacher who pointed loaded gun at man's head is released from jail

Let me get this straight.

Benjamin Terril -- the Buchtel High Science teacher who pointed a loaded gun at another man's head and whose home was called a "personal arsenal" by police -- is back on the streets after spending just hours behind bars.

According to jail records, Terril was booked in to custody on the evening of Sept. 1 charged with three felonies. He posted $1,000 bond 36 hours later and was released on Sept. 3rd.

36 hours? $1,000 bond? That's it?

Consider this:

  • Police say Terril took a loaded handgun and pointed it at the head of another man on Terril's front porch.

  • In front of terrified neighbors, Terril made the man walk a line and threatened to blow his head off.

  • Police say Terril was heavily intoxicated and also possessed marijuana.

  • Investigators seized more than two dozen weapons from Terril's home, including some believed to be illegal, while leaving behind all of the ammunition.

  • Terril was charged with three felonies, including carrying a concealed weapon.

  • Terril's record includes convictions for Carrying a Concealed Weapon and also an arrest for assaulting a police officer in another state, local police said.

The supervised release sheet (you can view it on-line) that Terril signed before leaving jail states that he must have weekly visits with the county's supervised release office .. and that he also agree to random drug and alcohol testing.
No home incarceration or ankle monitoring.
Additionally .. what's odd to me is that the info about staying away from potential victims in the case was not checked by the judge. In other words, the court -- while releasing Terril -- did not order him to stay away from the man who faced Terril's gun just two nights prior.
How well would you sleep if you were that guy?
$1,000 and 36 hours in jail .. and now he's back on the streets?

Realizing suspects are innocent until proven guilty, is anyone else really, really surprised by how quickly someone charged with this type of crime is out?
I'd really like some community thoughts here ... Eric

Biden coming to Wooster Wednesday .. then Canton and Akron on Thursday

"And they're off ...."

Feels more and more like a horse race of sorts ...

Hillary Clinton in Akron yesterday. Sarah Palin at CAK and Jackson Township today.
Now news that Joe Biden will be in Wooster on Wednesday.
He'll be on the south lawn at the College of Wooster for an afternoon rally. Gates open at 4 p.m. Not sure yet whether they'll be media availability, but at least he'll be talking to the voters, unlike what the public will get from Palin's visit today.
You need a free ticket, which you can pick up at Wayne Democratic HQ or at the Lowry Center at the College of Wooster.

And .. in typical blue-collar, Biden fashion .. you can also pick up tickets at the Farmer Boy Restaurant on Cleveland Road. I hear they also have great pie.
UPDATE: He'll take his bus campaign to Canton Thursday morning. Doors open at the Pro Football HOF at 8 a.m. and the program starts at 9:30 a.m. Tickets are free and required. Get them at local DEM office.
Biden's office says he also has event planned for Akron and Youngstown .. date/time TBA. I'm thinking Akron after lunch .. and Y-town by dinner.

Sarah Palin coming to Akron-Canton today!

She's coming .. but she's not speaking ... er, actually she is speaking .. just not to us .. or where you can hear her .. "us" as in the media .. but she will be talking .. just not where you can see her .. but you can still see her .. at the airport .. you just can't talk to her .. unless you yell .. which the Secret Service won't appreciate.

Got it?

Sarah Palin is scheduled to arrive at CAK this afternoon .. and the media coordination notes are all going out so that we can have our cameras and crews in place. Yet, as of now, all that the media will get is a shot of her coming down the stairs and into a car.

She's headed to Jackson Township for a private fundraiser, and then she's back on the plane and out of here.

Oh, the media can get video of her boarding the plane again too.

But that's it.

The public is welcome to come and wave at her ... from a distance.

While the media must be in place at the airport just after lunch, doors to the public open at 3!

But don't blink .. cuz she won't be visible very long.

Anyone else think that it's odd to send a candidate into the critical state for the election and not have her do something that rallies voters?

Where's the damage from last night's storm?


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Friday, September 12, 2008

Source: "There was more going on with these five indicted Sheriff's deputies than the public knew"

Now that the criminal cases involving the death of Mark McCullough have come to an end, I need to share part of a conversation I had a few weeks ago with a source near the investigation.

Many of us here in town .. me certainly included .. took shots at the system for the perceived special treatment that five Summit County Sheriff's Deputies received after being investigated and then indicted in a jailhouse death.

McCullough was beaten, maced, tazed, and eventually died while handcuffed inside the jail cell. The deputies said that McCullough had mental issues and was in an absolute rage that night. McCullough's family, and a grand jury, felt the deputies were out of line.

The deputies' indictments were read late in the week, but yet these men were allowed to stay free for the weekend before turning themselves in.

One of the deputies, Stephen Krendick, even faced murder charges, and yet was walking free.

Krendick and the others were booked not in Summit County where they worked, but in Medina County, ... but I think we all understood the reasoning behind that. Nevertheless, they were booked and released the same day.

They then appeared for the initial court arraignment in street clothes and received personal recognisance bonds. And with that, they were on their way back home.

Who gets treatment like that when indicted for killing someone?

It shocked most of us who cover the courts each day.

NO ONE charged with murder ever gets to show up in anything but an orange jump suit and they ALWAYS have to put up some money to get out on bail, and that's if the judge agrees to it. Sometimes it's in the millions of dollars .. and in really, really serious crimes, NO BOND.

For example, like Krendick, Doug Prade was also a police officer charged with murder .. and like Krendick, Prade had months to run and yet stayed to turn himself in when the charges came down.

I'm not saying that the two cases are equal. Still, at the initial arraignment stage of a cop charged with murder, Prade got cuffs, an orange jump suit, and a $5 million bond that he couldn't meet while Krendick got to wear street clothes and was back home in time for lunch.

Can you see why it looked like preferential treatment?

Krendick took his chances with a bench trial -- instead of a jury -- and the judge sided with Krendick on all counts. Now, that same judge accepted a dismissal of charges against the remainder of the deputies bringing the case to a close.

I've blogged several times and also spoken at length on NewsNight Akron that even if these deputies weren't receiving special treatment, there was still an appearance of favoritism and that stinks.



Here's what I didn't know until recently:


The deputies DID spend a night in jail .. and in jumpsuits .. and in a real jail cell in Medina .. before coming back for the arraignment. They were segregated as you can imagine, but did at least have that same inmate experience.

The decision for them to be arraigned in street clothes wasn't entirely theirs. County brass felt that putting these deputies in shackles and jump suits in front of their Summit County peers would be damaging should they later be acquitted and return to the job. Guess what? Now that's exactly what's going to happen.

As for not making the deputies post bond, my source tells me that that was the judge's decision .. and not preferential treatment from the prosecutor. The deputies' families had secured funds they thought would be needed for bail and were prepared that morning to take second mortgages if need be. They knew the judge could set bond in the millions under the circumstances.

Instead, the judge reportedly remarked that he felt comfortable that the deputies wouldn't flee -- which is what bond is supposed to ensure -- because they'd had an entire year to get out of town .. and even a weekend to run after being indicted .. and yet each one showed up to face the music.

That was the most important part to the way this all played out, my source says.

The deputies' actions -- in this case the accused deputies -- was indicative of men who truly felt they didn't cross the line. It pointed more to men who had done what they felt they needed to do under extraordinary circumstances that bloody night at the jail.

The community and the media can second-guess and analyze what these deputies did to McCullough, but in the minds of the deputies who were there that night, they were willing to stand together.

Going forward

Inside the Sheriff's brain trust, this case continues to be dissected in hopes of preventing this from ever happening again. That includes making sure supervisors are involved sooner than later when an inmate like McCullough gets out of hand. It also includes following procedures -- including using a hand-held video camera -- when teams of deputies are forced to enter a cell with an extreme case like this one.

Sheriff Alexander is promising a citizens advisory committee to making the jail safer for inmates and deputies alike. I haven't had a chance to talk with him about this case, but I'd like to ask him about adding cameras all over the jail and what kind of funds would be needed to make that happen.

I don't know that many in the community -- me included -- will ever forget the brutality of this case or the way it played out (or didn't) in court.

Still ... as a journalist, it's always a quest to find out the truth, and I've learned there was more going on with these five deputies than the public was aware.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Hillary Clinton coming to Ellet High School

Details are now being released of Hillary Clinton's visit to Akron .. set for this Sunday.

It's now set for Ellet High School. Doors open at 2 p.m. and the rally begins at 3:30 p.m.
I'm not sure if she'll wear orange ... but maybe Bob Otterman has something she can borrow.

You don't need tickets, but if you'd like to attend, you're encouraged to RSVP so they know you're coming. Click here!

A release from the campaign says: "For security reasons, do not bring bags. Please limit personal items. No signs or banners allowed."

Clinton will also be at Lorain Community College .. doors there open at 11:30 a.m.

I'll post other local appearances from both sides the Presidential race as they're scheduled. EM

What are your memories of 9/11?

We all remember where we were when we first heard the news .. saw the video ... and told someone else.

We all remember that we couldn't sleep that night and how we awoke on the 12th hoping it had all been a dream.

On this seventh anniversary, we invite you to share your memories and read others in a special section on our website at WKYC.com.

The attacks of 9/11 certainly touched us all .. and I'll hope you'll share your thoughts both here and on wkyc.com.

Here's a compilation of what my co-workers at Channel 3 remember from that unforgettable day.



and here's my memories as I posted on wkyc.com:

9/11 still feels like a nightmare, even today.

I was home when the first plane hit, and when the second one pounded the other tower, I quickly jumped into the shower so I could get to work early. No reason to wait for the bosses to call; I knew immediately that as a TV journalist, it was time to get in to the office.

I was driving down Market Street in Akron when I heard a report on WAKR-AM that the Pentagon had been hit. At that moment, I realized that the whole country -- and not just New York City -- was in danger.

I arrived in the newsroom and tried to call a news crew that was over at the Summit County Courthouse to tell them to blow off the story they were on and get to the Akron-Canton Airport for reaction. Unfortunately, the judge made them turn off their cell phone so I couldn't reach them.

Videogapher Carl Bachtel and I watched in horror as the first tower fell. It wasn't long before the decision was made to carry local programming on the PAX channel (23) while WKYC carried NBC's national coverage.

We had live interviews with local ministers, a defense expert, and Akron-area residents who had relatives in New York. We also were reporting all of the closures, including the University of Akron and many of the larger Akron businesses.

I remember a call from a woman who asked me, "is it safe to drive?" I told her, "I think so." I realized right then that our lives had changed forever.

I remember saying to an intern, "next to Jesus Christ coming back as promised in the Bible, I don't know that we'll ever see a bigger news day."

Ironically, a news crew from PBS 45/49 was here that day to record video of our newsroom "in action" for a series PBS was doign on local news. Under the circumstances, I was surprised the crew stayed that day. Every time I review that documentary and I see the video of the people in our Akron newsroom working the phones and running around, I remind myself that it was 9-11.

At the end of the night, I was just exhausted .. like everyone else.

I also remember not being able to sleep, and waking up the next morning in time to see the beginning of the Today Show -- just to make sure I hadn't been dreaming.

For the next few nights, our Channel 3 and PAX23 newscasts aired commercial free .. so we all had to turn multiple stories to fill the newscast. It was a tremendous challenge because of the few staffers we had no duty, but we all pulled together to get the news on the air.

When I wasn't here in the newsroom, I was packing my bags .. assuming that the National Guard unit I was commanding would soon be called to duty. While my unit wasn't mobilized as part of the immediate security call-up, I was mobilized a little more than a year later as we headed to Iraq.

All of that started with 9-11. Eric

9/11 death toll still defies the numbers

I'm watching some of MSNBC's replay of the 9-11 tragedy .. and the one thing that keeps racing through my mind is that I thought -- on that day and the week after -- that the body count would be much higher.

Seeing those towers come down .. and seeing the wide-spread damage .. plus the early reports that on any given day you can find 50,000 people in the Twin Towers.

Am I the only one that thought we'd have 10 or 20,000 dead?

Having since been to Ground Zero, I try to picture the chaos that day .. and how many strangers were coming to the aid of one another.

Certainly, the thousands we lost is beyond words, but I'm still amazed that the loss of life wasn't higher that day.

Am I the only one?

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Hillary Clinton coming to Akron

Hillary Clinton will be here in Akron Sunday .. but the place and time are still TBA. She'll also be in Lorain for a rally there.

For what it's worth, if she was going to campaign in Northeast Ohio on a Sunday .. she picked the right one to do it.

The Browns don't play until 8 p.m.

The $.75 debate

My wife, Lisa, and I debated three quarters this morning. As in 75 actual cents.

If you hadn't noticed, that's the new price of the daily Akron Beacon Journal.

It frustrates me that the same week the paper shrinks from four sections to three, ABJ brass raises the price to seven dimes and a nickle. Doesn't seem right.

This is the same paper that's now searching for 20 additional newsroom staffers to take buyouts or more layoffs are coming in the next 45 days. That will take the small staff of about 100 down to about 80.

So my small paper is about to get even smaller?!?!?

So with all of that in mind, I asked Lisa if it was time to reduce to just the Sunday paper and read the Mon-Sat editions on-line.

Her response wasn't what I expected.
"I don't want one more way for us to be a suburb of Cleveland," she said, without even looking up from the story she was reading.

I thought she might argue that browsing the morning prose was part of her daily routine or that she would miss being able to take the paper wherever she wanted .. or even that "it's only 75 cents" so what's the big deal?

But that wasn't it.

Lisa fears that the more people bail out on the paper during the lean economic times, the more likely it is that the paper will continue to shrink .. or worse.

I had no comeback. I had no rebuttal. I got it.

It's a good argument ... and one that I certainly know well with our financial struggles in the broadcasting end of the local news business.

Still, like any other commodity, I want to feel like I'm getting my money's worth .. in this case, my three quarters' worth.

Heck, I like reading the paper (I've got to have my Sudoku fix) .. and as a journalist I need to read the paper, even if doesn't take me as long to go through it each day as it used to take.

I may not like the increased cost, but the alternative -- as my wife so eloquently pointed out to me -- is one lesson I don't want to have to learn.

By the way, tomorrow .. I'm thinking of asking Lisa if she thinks we need a big-screen TV .. wish me luck :)

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Students voluntarily took part in program to fight back

I've been following some comments both on-line and on local talk radio that take aim at the students who were part of my story Monday night on the University of Akron's "ALICE" program.

It's aimed at training college students to react and take action should someone begin opening fire on campus. Obviously, in this post-Virginia Tech world, college campuses are looking to make their areas as safe as they can be for students and staff.

This new approach is about teaching would-be victims to at least go out swinging. To not just sit in fear while someone takes lives. If possible, throw something at the gunman to divert their attention from putting you in the cross hairs .. and second, to swarm the gunman with as many people as possible to subdue him and his weapon.

Now 24 hours since our story hit air, the reaction has been all over the place. Some folks saying that the program is a death wish for students looking to be heroes instead of doing the "right thing" by taking a defensive position to protect themselves. Others think the time would be better spent teaching students to barricade doors and lock the bad guy in a closed area.

I don't think the U of Akron police officers teaching ALICE would dispute those options, as long as they exist. But in the case of a face-to-face, life-or-death confrontation, ALICE was about taking action to try and save lives, or at least lessen the body count.

More than anything, I just want viewers to know that taking part was voluntary .. and not one of the students I saw Monday raised a complaint while our cameras were there. They all took part on their own.

To date, UAPD tells me that nearly 600 staff and students have completed the program.

Is it the best way to subdue a gunman who is out to kill? I have no idea.

I can only hope that a tragedy like this never happens locally -- or anywhere. Still, students need to have a mental plan of survival ... and only each individual knows for sure what they think they're willing to do.

Friday, September 5, 2008

No winners in Stephens ruling

Most around town are not surprised by today's ruling from Summit County Prosecutor Sherri Bevan Walsh that says no laws were broken when two Akron police officers shot and killed Jeffrey Stephens back in July.

Stephens is the father of 12 who was shot 22 times when he reached for a gun in his waistband in the early morning hours of July 5th.

First .. see it from the officers' point of view: They were responding to a call of "shots fired" in the neighborhood and came across Stephens who had a gun.

Now .. from Stephens' point of view: He was awaken by gunfire, possibly at his home, and grabbed his gun to protect his home and family .. including his son who outside and possibly in a fight at the time.

You can imagine the energy inside both when they came together in the darkness.

The ending is just sad .. and as bad as the community is feeling for the Stephens family, I can only imagine how hard this has been for the officers Joseph Sidoti and Michale Miles.

While civil suits are sure to follow, a ruling against the officers would have sent the wrong message to local police, who are face far more gunmen on the streets of Akron then ever gets reported on the news.

NewsNight Akron debuts IN Akron

We've just finished taping our first "NewsNight Akron" episode that's actually in Akron.

After 10 years in the studios of Kent State University, WNEO-WEAO PBS 45/49 made the investment to move in to the downtown Akron studio that I call home with WKYC. The space became available when WKYC reduced staff here at the end of the Akron-Canton News broadcasts in May.

So after weeks of action with cameras and lights .. today it was lights, camera, action!

Ed Esposito, Jody Miller, and Steve Hoffman all took part in tonight's episode, which airs at 9 p.m., discussing everything from the Hudson busing fiasco to Sarah Palin to the removal of the mandatory paid sick day law from the Ohio ballot.

For regular viewers ... the set will look different .. and the host (me) is positioned on the left side of your screen now. I'm also standing after spending all the previous shows seated. The reason behind that will be apparent in the next few weeks as we add a "smart board" similar to the touch-screen monitors CNN is using on its political shows.

The new location is also a big plus for the panelists and for getting future guests on the broadcasts. I'd like to invite a studio audience in from time-to-time as well.

Let me know what you like and don't like about the new set .. and we'll continue to tweak it in the coming days. You can also email me a question for the panel and I'll use some on the air.

As always, thanks for being part of NewsNight Akron!

Thursday, September 4, 2008

From my blog to reality -- detective suspended for Cynthia George book

Well .. either it's a major coincidence or my blog post from Tuesday (What you're not hearing about APD right now) touched a nerve.

Akron Police have now suspended Detective Vincent Felber for 90 days for his book Perfect Beauty which takes aim at how the department handled the Cynthia George case.

Phil Trexler broke the suspension a short time ago in a story on ohio.com and I'm told that he predicted the suspension would come this week during last week's NewsNight Akron.

Police leaders are confirming the suspension, but whether or not the media forced city hall's hand, it was time to bring this case to a resolution.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

One-on-one ... getting the most out of my questions

My one-on-one with Sen. Barack Obama was quite candid and relaxed. I was limited to two questions, as was a reporter on the other side of the room from a competing station, but Obama was quite candid when he came in the room.

He shook hands with the reporters AND the photographers, which politicians rarely do, especially at the National stage. Here's what it looked like (with Secret Service and Media Management folks nearby, but off camera):





I was a little taken aback that his response to my first question began with him bashing McCain, but he spent the rest of the answer explaining ways he really thinks Ohio's economy can turn around. His speech included calling Ohio the "Saudi Arabia" of coal in reference to jobs that could be created here if coal can be used more efficiently as a fuel.

I had a lot to choose from in a second question, but I felt it was best to ask him about benefits for Guardsmen and Reservists since 1,500 Ohio Guardsmen are now headed to the Gulf Coast and another 2,500 are on duty right now in Iraq and Afghanistan. His answer will resonate well with a lot of Guard families that can empathize with the exact statements he raised.

After the interview, Obama approached me and wanted to know more about my tour of duty in Iraq, including where and when I served, how long I was there, and what it did to my family. He thanked me for my service and reached out for my hand.

I had noticed during the interview that Obama was wearing a bracelet on his right hand. I asked him what it was and he told me that it was given to him by a Wisconsin mother who lost her son in Iraq. His name is engraved on the bracelet. She asked Obama to wear it and he's kept it on since February.

There was one humerous moment as Obama put on the wireless microphone in an outside hallway before the interview. We could hear him even though he hadn't come in the interview room yet. Obama was joking with his staff saying "did you guys see I beat Reggie in a game of Horse?"

It was amusing to hear someone who is fighting for the most powerful job on earth and who had just spoken for 75 minutes on how to turn a country around .. yet in the blink of eye, he can have a few laughs with his staff before one-on-ones with the television media. I know local politicians who couldn't find that comfort level even if the topic they were speaking on was bake sales for the library.

Back in the newsroom

Well .. it was a long, hot day .. that much both political parties can agree.

Obama's speech and Q&A went about 75 minutes .. and then about 20 minutes after that, I was invited back to a one-on-one interview. He's the most candid politician I've ever met that's for sure.

I'm up to my you-know-what in getting the story on the air and preparing to go live ... but I'll write more later tonight on more about what the day was like.

Eric

Ladies and Gentlemen, Barack Obama.

12:50 p.m. With little fanfare, Sen. Obama made his entrance and has been introduced by a local college student who is also a working mother. Gabrielle was quite tearful is saying that she hopes Obama's new policies will help her and other parents.

Obama's first few minutes have been highlights of last week's speech in Denver. Familiar phrases about the economy, health insurance, and why John McCain doesn't understand middle America. He did go off book a bit and take the RNC to task over last night's speakers who failed to recognize the economy as a major issue.

1:02 p.m. Obama is now railing about the equal-pay-for-equal-work law that he hopes to pass. He claims that women earn half of the income in half of all American families. He's talking about his grandmother not earning enough years ago.

1:21 p.m. Question #1 delt with the poor in Tuscarawas County and #2 targeted getting alternative fuels going in Ohio. Obama gave solid answers to both saying that upping the minimum wage and tax credits will help the working poor, while better using coal for energy would make Ohio the "Saudi Arabia of coal" for the world.

1:33 p.m. Obama now getting an emotional testimony from a man worked 36 years in Canton only to see his plant close unexpectedly. Obama telling him that he'll get help through additonal Social Security and that he'll work to keep this from happening again to other workers.

Obama blog take 3

11:40 a.m. OK .. after the two-hour media sweep turned into three-plus hours, I'm finally back in the venue. There are so many reporters in here that they've set up an additional spot in an auditorium where reporters are supposed to go and watch the event on a TV feed. Meanwhile, the only folks being allowed into the courtyard with Obama are photographers and TV reporters, since we need to be on camera for our reporting. So, fortunately I'm inside. (here's a picture from my seat. Obama will be speaking a few rows ahead of the metal retaining fence.)

Not too many elected officials here yet. State Rep. Stephen Dyer (D) is the only one I've seen. There are quite a few clergy in the front few rows, and a lot of women in the audience as well, which was to be expected since his talk is aimed at women.

A lot of students still keep wandering up to see what's going on, but they can't get in. Quite a few folks came a long distance to be here.

No official word on Obama's arrival yet, but we're told that 12:30 p.m. is his target right now.

11:55 a.m. A local minister has given the crowd a prayer and a local school rep has taken us through the Pledge of Allegiance. Still no sign of the national press, which means Obama's probably not here yet either. Still, the security presence is significant in what is a crowded courtyard surrounded by four high walls. Stay tuned.
12:09 p.m. Well, a speaker got the crowd all whooped up and it turned into a false alarm. Obama's not here yet. Those of us in the media are waiting for the national media to come in, then we'll know it's for real. Otherwise, this crowd got a little too anxious. The wait continues. I have, however, become the envy of my peers as I was the only one to bring any food with me -- a banana. Must be the boy scout in me: Be prepared.
12:28 p.m. National Media has arrived! The crush has begun! Game on!

Obama Blog Take 2

9:25 a.m. After being tossed out for the security sweep, I've found another wireless connection in the campus parking lot. A great many students have no idea what's going on and assume the worst when they see a sea of live trucks and news crews. Once we tell them everything's ok and that Sen. Obama is coming to campus, their eyes light up and they ask for tickets. Unfortunately, it's by invitation only. And there's only about 100 seats in the outdoor courtyard.

9:51 a.m. Seems our Q&A with Obama will be after he speaks to the women in the courtyard and it will be off in a side room. With each station only having one camera in the courtyard, the time it takes to break down and get in the interview room will be limited and may cost us some interviews with the crowd, but that's an acceptable sacrifice. While I'm still framing my one question I'll get to ask, I wonder what you would ask? Share your comments below . .and if I get a second question opportunity, maybe I'll ask yours. Eric

Blogging from Obama's stop in New Philadelphia

It's been an early start to the day .. not often that I arrive at our Akron newsroom at 6 a.m. But we've been successful in our journey south to cover Sen. Barack Obama's visit to New Philadelphia.

He's speaking at the Kent State - Tuscarawas Campus around 11:30 a.m. or so .. although that can be moved up or back.

As is the usual procedure, the media is told to arrive many, many hours early to set up .. and then we're all kicked out as the Secret Service checks out our gear. Then, they let the media back in just as the public is allowed in.

The way you know that the subject -- in this case Obama -- has arrived is to watch for the national pool of photographers and press. When they arrive in a stampeded, the VIP can't be far behind. Sometimes, the candidate or leader gets out on stage before the national press can even get set up.

The venue here in New Philadelphia is a small courtyard, so the local press is already pushing on one another .. when the national press gets here, it'll be a fight to find the right shots. Then again, the press know how to work together and we'll work it out.

No local folks have shown up yet .. but I did see a large sign on a business on I-77 near Dover that read "Sen. Obama please help me save my home!"

As part of the Cleveland press pool, Sen. Obama's camp called me at home last night and told me to be prepared for a Q&A session .. and that it probably be in the form of a one-on-one with Obama but limited to 1-2 questions in a one-minute interview. Nothing like pressure eh? Not sure yet whether it will be before or after the event .. as everything is subject to change.

More later ..

Brimfield fire just keeps burning

Got several calls and emails both Sunday and again Tuesday ... that the fire at the Industrial Plant (that huge one from Saturday night that could be seen for 20 miles!) was flaring up again.

Here's a picture from Tuesday .. it was sent in by a nice lady who works nearby and tells me that Brimfield FD and Kent FD were on the scene right away.

I know fires can flare up again from time to time .. but why won't this one die?

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Hundreds of local National Guardsmen headed to Hurricane Zone

A press release is due out within the hour, but a source in Columbus tells me that 1,500 Ohio National Guardsmen are headed to the Hurricane Zone. About half are from Northeast Ohio, including two units from the armory in Green, right next to the Akron-Canton Airport.

That's about the same number of Buckeye troops (I was one of them) that Ohio sent to Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

More to come ..

What you're not hearing about APD right now ..

Two stories are quietly unfolding behind the scenes of APD. One involving an officer's possible punishment .. and the other involving the chance several officers might turn in their badges.

Here's what I've been told:

First, sources tell me that negotiations continue with embattled detective Vincent Felber. He's the officer who penned Perfect Beauty about the investigation into Cynthia George and the murder of one of her lovers by another.

Felber's prose took aim at his fellow officers and supervisors (and himself too) for mistakes he claims were made during the investigation .. with some of the claims hitting pretty close to the bullet-proof vest. So last April, Felber was reassigned to the radio room while the city began an internal investigation to see if Felber broke any rules, laws, or just flat out crossed line.

Four-plus months later, Felber is still supervising radio operations instead of solving cases.

Sources tell me that the city has been negotiating offers to Felber to take anywhere from a 45-day to a six-month suspension .. and then he would be reassigned to another division within the department. Whether Felber accepts any punishment for exercising what he believes were his First Amendment Rights is something else altogether.

Either way, the city is caught between free speech and a hard place.


Meanwhile ... three to four other APD officers are considering leaving APD for a job with the University of Akron Police Force. UAPD is reportedly in need of minority and female officers, and has other openings as well .. so there's an opportunity there.

Also, as University of Akron employees, the officers' children would have educational benefits (free tuition). I'm not sure how the pay compares, but that's a pretty attractive package for officers raising a family.
I don't believe any of the Akron officers has been offered a position yet, but sources on several shifts tell me that some of Akron's finest are definitely pursuing the opportunity.

Two stories in one location

We just finished shooting some video of Buchtel High School to use in tonight's story about a local teacher who was arrested ... but while we were at the school, a second story broke out -- right in front of us.

While I was on the phone with a producer in our Cleveland office, videographer Larry Baker heard a child screaming on the front porch of the home right next to the high school. He could tell that the child was in trouble. As Larry began moving towards the home to check on the child, two police vehicles pulled up and the officers jumped out in a hurry and headed for the front porch.

Two neighbors were talking to the officers and pointing at the front of the house.

As the officers entered the home, the neighbors told me that the man inside had been beating his girlfriend and the child had run screaming in fear. The neighbors say the beating was so bad, that they could hear the screams over the busy traffic on Copley Road.

Needless to say, the neighbors were surprised to see a TV camera there that quickly, but I explained that we were only 100 feet away at the time and wanted to help if we could.

Within seconds of entering the home, the Akron officers were back outside searching the nearby bushes and a back garage .. obviously looking for the suspect who had made a run for it. Other units showed up and the chase was on.

I still don't know if they found the suspect or not .. or what the condition of the woman is .. but it's enough to get your heart pumping in the middle of the afternoon.

Now back to story #1 .. and a local teacher charged with getting drunk and pointing a weapon at another man's head. Police later find an arsenal in his basement .. and also charge him with drug possession.

My favorite line so far comes from the 9-1-1 call from a neighbor. He told the dispatcher that the teacher had been drinking all day and was therefor "annihilated." I'm guessing he meant "inebriated." Although, if the story is true, this man was close to "annihilating" another human being had APD not shown up in time.

All this and the day is barely half over .. Yikes!

Monday, September 1, 2008

Do you have a connection to Gustav?

If your loved ones are in the hurricane's path .. or if you or your loved ones here in the Akron area are headed to the zone to help, drop me an e-mail at ericmansfield@wkyc.com. I'm looking for as many local connections as I can find for stories to fill the next few days ... and certainly want to give our local heroes the credit they deserved.

Just yesterday, a five-man team left the National Guard Armory near the Akron-Canton Airport. They're flying a CH-47 Chinook helicopter to the hurricane zone and awaiting missions. A Guard spokesman told that the crew has arrived in Nashville and is awaiting further order, and more Ohio Guardsmen could be headed to the zone once the damage is assessed.

I also checked with the City of Akron after hearing that the Fire Department's dive team was headed to NOLA, but a spokesman tells me the dive team is on a "standby list" so there has been no activation as of yet.

I'm certainly having flashbacks of when I was activated in 2005 with the Ohio Guard for Katrina. Can't believe these folks are enduring another major hurricane so soon.

Anyway .. looking for local connections .. so drop me a line! Eric

Fire photos are attention getters

Thanks to so many of you who sent along photos from Saturday night's big fire in Brimfield. The smoke could be seen for 20+ miles.

While there were a great many amazing photos, including some great videos too, this picture from Doug and Laura Kincaid really stands out to me.
With evacuations coming so quickly .. and with most folks wanting to get the heck out of there ... Doug & Laura nailed this shot while driving away. Now that's creative! (and by the way, don't' try this at home)
I'm still looking to do some followup stories on the impact of the fire.. specifically the time it took to call for and receive mutual aid .. and the factors behind the weekend flareups.
Any thoughts?
Again .. thanks to all who sent pictures .. and the great video too .. Eric