December 21, 2014

Elyria
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No decision on charges in North Ridgeville Council threats case

NORTH RIDGEVLLE — Police have not reached a decision on whether charges will be filed against a man whose  frustration over a neighbor’s property and recent flooding led to him threatening Council members at Monday’s meeting.

“We’re still looking at it but at this point, we’re waiting to see what the administration and Council want to do with it,” police Capt. Marti Garrow said Thursday. “The ball is pretty much in their court now.We’re standing by to see how
they want to pursue it.”

The investigation began following comments by Randall Smith, a Gail Drive resident, who told Council he might wind up in jail “because I’ll shoot four of you.”

The remark came as Smith talked about prospects of increased flooding from construction of a new middle school near North Ridgeville High School.

Smith was among about a dozen people who lambasted Council members and the administration for what they said was inaction to relieve the city’s long history of flooded neighborhoods, including the Gina-Pitts-Gail Drive area.

Smith said most of his frustration was not over the city’s recent flooding problems but what he saw as the city’s lack of action to force the owner of a home next door to Smith’s to clean up the overgrown property.

Smith later expressed regret over his remarks to The Chronicle-Telegram, but said he would fight the city if charged from the incident.

“I spent a year in Vietnam to say what I want to say,” he said.

Garrow said charges that could be levied against Smith range from menacing and aggravated menacing to disorderly conduct. All are misdemeanors, but the menacing charges also carry the possibility of jail time, Garrow said.

Smith uttered the threatening remarks in a calm, seemingly unthreatening manner, but he was immediately told by City
Council President Kevin Corcoran, R-at large, to quit speaking and to leave the Council chamber podium.

He then was escorted out of City Hall by a uniformed police officer.

Smith apologized the next day to Corcoran in a phone conversation, during which Corcoran said he understood Smith’s frustration at the slowness of action to remedy the situation with his neighbor’s property.

Mayor David Gillock said Thursday he didn’t take Smith’s threat literally.

“I understand he lost his cool, but at the same time you can’t say things like that and just ignore it, not in today’s world,” Gillock said.

Gillock said he had run into Smith a week before the meeting, and Smith told him he didn’t get to speak at the May 19 meeting about his concerns.

“He told me he was coming to the meeting because he didn’t get to speak at the first,” Gillock said. “I told him that
was fine.”

Councilwoman Roseanne Johnson, R-at large, said she didn’t feel threatened personally, but was bothered by Smith’s subsequent comments in a Chronicle story in which he said he felt his military service in Vietnam entitled him to speak his mind.

“That’s not what free speech is about,” Johnson said.

She did note that Smith had written a “nice letter of apology” for his remarks, which Johnson said she accepted.

Gillock said Law Director Andrew Crites is speaking with Council members to assist police in determining whether charges will be brought against Smith. Crites did not return calls Thursday.

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