Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Mayor's response to downtown fight .

I'll have the 911 calls up in a minute, but for starters, here's the mayor's statement released at 9:25 a.m.

Mayor Don Plusquellic
August 4, 2009

On Saturday evening, August 1, at approximately 10:50pm, I met friends at the Bricco Restaurant on South Main Street. Earlier that evening, I welcomed audiences at our Ballet Summer Festival at Glendale Cemetery, and at the 9:00pm concert at Lock 3.
I exited the restaurant shortly after 2:00am, and walked north on Main toward the place where I had parked my car.
A friend who had been in Bricco came outside to continue our discussions for several minutes. Suddenly, I heard a commotion going on around the corner at Main and Exchange. Someone was yelling “fight.” I immediately walked in that direction to see if I could help. A large crowd of people came rushing past me, and continued around the corner where they proceeded to carry on a fight that apparently broke-out on Exchange Street.
I attempted twice to call 9-1-1 when the fight first started, but was placed on hold. Given all the people running around, and not being able to determine how to physically help, and believing I could have been hit while holding the phone, I hung up.
While I was blocked from seeing the faces of the combatants, I became aware that someone had been punched and was lying in the street. I witnessed a person kick the victim lying on the ground but was unable to see his face.
As people (combatants and witnesses alike) scattered, and police started to arrive on the scene, I called 9-1-1 at 2:38am for the third time, to get EMS to the scene. I was advised that they had already been called, and I informed the 9-1-1 center that I was concerned about having been put on hold earlier.
At 2:41am, I received a call from the 9-1-1 center asking if I had called in. I told them that I had called-in, and had received a recorded message, and was placed on hold. I asked to speak to the police sergeant on duty. As Safety Director of the City of Akron, I directed him to document the number of calls received in the 9-1-1 center about this incident, and to document what circumstances required calls to be placed on hold. I indicated to him that I would take-up the matter with Chief Craig Gilbride the following day.
This action - stated in tough terms in a stressful situation - was partially in reaction to the incident that had occurred June 27 in Firestone Park -the botched response to the several calls that went unreported for over three weeks following a terrible assault. Even our hard-working detectives couldn’t get accurate and timely information from the 9-1-1 center, which caused a very bad perception of the Akron Police Department.
The Firestone Park incident on June 27 had raised these concerns anew because detectives investigating the assault case after the fireworks, were first advised that there were no other calls, and later learned that there were multiple calls to the 9-1-1 center, some of whom had been placed on hold.
It was essential that this problem be documented so that solutions to this problem can be applied.
During the time that I was on Main Street early Sunday, I spoke to witnesses regarding what they had seen, and I continuously relayed to police officers what others had said to me about the start of the fight. I directed individuals who had seen the fight take place to make their statements to police officers. I did everything I could to help police get the information they needed, so that an arrest could be made.
The police officer who completed the written incident report listed me as an ancillary person to the investigation. The report form provides a box labeled speech, in which the officer wrote the word “slurred.” Recordings of my calls to the 9-1-1 center do not support this conclusion. The recordings are posted on the city’s website.
I have witnessed a number of fights before - as a coach present on basketball courts and baseball playing fields. I have been involved in breaking-up fights, including one on Main Street several years ago. The incident Sunday was much more horrific because of the injury to the victim. People at the scene who spoke to me believed that this was more than a few rowdy guys throwing punches. This is why we were motivated to help police as much as we could.
The truth however, was that from the arrival of the first officer on the scene - who displayed an attitude that drove most of the witnesses away - had I not remained at the scene and encouraged other witnesses to cooperate, the officers who later took the statements that are now being used by detectives, would not have been able to gather the information that led to the arrest of a responsible person, which occurred because of my insistence that they interview certain witnesses to the event.
The president of the FOP has chosen to attack me for getting involved. Anyone listening to the 9-1-1 tape recordings will agree that the story concocted by the FOP president is flatly wrong - for whatever political or personal reason he may have. We simply cannot afford to not have people involved to help police. Without my remaining on the scene, and insistence that witnesses also remain to be interviewed, we could have had yet another unsolved case.
I am never just an ordinary bystander when I am present at the scene of a safety emergency. The Charter of the City of Akron designates me as the Safety Director, and I am in charge of all police and fire matters. Because I was a practicing lawyer and former criminal prosecutor, I also know the importance of gathering information immediately. This was my only purpose Sunday morning - to direct the people who had approached me with valuable information because they knew who I was - to officers who could take down the details to secure an arrest, and hopefully a conviction of whoever was responsible for this horrible beating.
It is always my responsibility to ensure that the police department in all its facets - patrol officers, detectives, 9-1-1 call takers and dispatchers - do their jobs properly, so that we never again have an unfortunate situation like the one that occurred in June in Firestone Park.


Anonymous said...

I can't find the audio on the City's website even though the Mayor's statement says it is there.

Anonymous said...

Last time I looked, it was embedded in the statement ("Clip 1", "Clip 2", "Clip 3").

Eric will have it here, and other news sites have it as well.

Anonymous said...

I see. I don't think the statement was posted yet when I looked. Thanks for the tip.