December 21, 2014

Elyria
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Officer in kitten killing was well-regarded during his career

NORTH RIDGEVILLE — Barry Accorti, the city’s humane officer who stirred a public outcry over the shooting of feral kittens in a residential backyard earlier this week, had a well-regarded career as a police officer and has not had problems since being hired as a humane officer, according to his personnel files.

Accorti, who was a police officer from 1979 to early 2010 when he retired, was hired back by the city as one of two humane officers on June 6, 2012.

Since his official swearing-in as humane officer a year ago, Accorti’s lone personnel file documentation pertained to an accident that caused minor damage to a plastic running board of a vehicle he was driving when it hit a large rock at the city’s Frontier Park in August.

Accorti shot and killed five feral kittens Monday in the backyard of a Vista Lake Way home after it was determined the animals were causing problems with fleas inside the house, leaving dead wildlife in the yard and producing a foul odor.

His actions sparked outrage as news of the killings spread via social media, and there have been calls by the Ohio Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals for him to be fired.

However, Police Chief Michael Freeman on Tuesday deemed Accorti’s actions appropriate and said no discipline was warranted.

The Chronicle-Telegram reviewed Accorti’s personnel records Wednesday.

The document included many commendations for his work over the years, with reprimands being confined primarily to his role in a couple of motor vehicle crashes.

  • Accorti is a native of New Jersey who attended Lorain County Community College and was a graduate of the FBI National Academy.
  • A Navy veteran who rose through the police ranks from patrolman to sergeant to detective to SWAT team commander and lieutenant, Accorti amassed a number of commendations for his investigative work over the years, as well as his efforts to promote physical fitness via police fitness programs and tests he helped organize, and for organizing and leading a firearms training program.
  • He was cited for his work in the murder case of Stacey Balas, a 25-year-old North Ridgeville woman who disappeared in November 1996 after working the night shift at a Fairview Park Subway restaurant. While her body was never found, Larry Wade, who managed the Subway eatery at the time, confessed in 2005 to strangling Balas in the restaurant’s kitchen after she rebuffed his sexual advances.
  • Accorti was commended over the years for incidents including an April 1984 case in which a 23-year-old man climbed the city water tower at Center Ridge Road and state Route 83 and threatened to commit suicide by jumping off. After more than an hour, Accorti talked the man out of harming himself.
  • He assisted the Ohio Highway Patrol in 1988 in apprehending two armed escaped convicts stopped in a stolen car on the Turnpike who threatened to kill a Castalia state trooper.
  • In 1992, Accorti responded to a call of a shooting in progress and wound up wrestling a gun away from a man and woman who were fighting each other for the weapon after the wife critically wounded her husband with four gunshots.
  • In 1994, Accorti was recognized for defusing an attempted suicide by an emotionally distraught 47-year-old man with a loaded shotgun.
  • Accorti and another officer were commended in May 2005 for their investigation of a road rage incident that uncovered a marijuana-growing operation and led to the seizure of more than $23,000 in marijuana, cash, gold coins and a number of firearms.
  • The only mark against him that wasn’t vehicle-related dated to July 2002, when he admitted to being impatient with a woman with whom he’d had previous dealings as a police officer. The woman complained to higher ups that he was rude; Accorti disagreed with her assessment.

In a letter from now-retired Capt. Al Dent to former Chief Rick Thomas, Dent said he reminded Accorti about the need to be “diplomatic” with the public.

“(Accorti) stated he would try and do as I asked, but felt it would be difficult,” Dent wrote to Thomas.

In a January 2003 letter, Dent, the department’s operations officer at the time, reprimanded Accorti for “inattention” that caused an accident in which he damaged a police vehicle when it hit a tree after sliding off an embankment on Accorti’s snow-covered driveway.

In a rebuttal letter, Accorti said being called “inattentive” was “grossly inaccurate” and “insulting” as he attributed the accident to his efforts to avoid a disabled vehicle in a driveway.

In June 2008, Thomas reprimanded Accorti for negligent operation of a vehicle that led to a minor accident that damaged an outside mirror of a police vehicle.

Since the mishap was his second vehicle accident in a short period of time, an unpaid suspension normally would be imposed, Thomas told Accorti.

But because Accorti had no previous “chargeable accidents in 25 years of service,” Thomas opted instead for a written reprimand.

Over the years Accorti was cited a number of times for making the most drunk driving arrests of any North Ridgeville officer, including 60 in 1991 and 53 in 1996.

Contact Steve Fogarty at 329-7146 or sfogarty@chroniclet.com.