December 21, 2014

Elyria
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Parent alleges humane control officer killed raccoon in front of kids

NORTH RIDGEVILLE — A day shy of the anniversary of the shooting of five kittens by a city humane officer, a Root Road man claimed a baby raccoon was shot dead Monday in front of three children, one of whom was his son.

“This isn’t the Wild West, you don’t just pull out guns and shoot them, especially not in front of kids,” Tim Sherrill said about an hour after one of the city’s animal control officers shot and killed a young raccoon on his neighbor’s property.

Sherrill, who was at work, said two other boys, also believed to be 10 years old, reportedly witnessed the shooting along with his son, Jordan.

The children were playing on the neighbor’s property with that man’s grandson, when the shooting occurred Monday, according to Sherrill.

“I own a gun myself,” Sherrill said. “I can understand this up to a point … that they have to put animals down, but you don’t do it in front of kids. I’m an adult, and I don’t want to see it.”

Police Chief Michael Freeman offered a different version of events, maintaining the raccoon was not shot near any children or dwellings by Humane Officer Barry Accorti, who estimated he shot the animal at least 70 yards from any house.

Freeman said Accorti shot the animal after determining there were no children present.

Accorti, the same humane officer involved in the kitten incident in 2013, followed the law, according to Freeman.

“The property owner set a trap (which was requested from the city) and called us when he had something in the trap,” Freeman said. “He gave us permission to take care of the animal on his property.”

“Because a neighbor disagrees with it doesn’t make it wrong,” Freeman said of the incident.

Freeman said the animal was shot with .22-caliber ammunition that was fired toward the ground.

“This is a highly-trained individual who can make deductions as to whether this can be done safely or not,” Freeman said. “He is a certified officer. Not somebody we just hire off the street, give them a gun, and tell them to go to it.”

Under Ohio Department of Natural Resources regulations, animals can be caught and then released or destroyed by a property owner, or permission can be given by a property owner to have an animal destroyed by another party, such as a humane officer.

Accorti became a humane officer in 2012 after retiring as a North Ridgeville police officer with 31 years’ service as a patrolman, detective, SWAT team commander and lieutenant. Over the years he received many commendations.

An adult raccoon and number of baby raccoons were removed by the city from the neighbor’s property last week, according to Sherrill.

It was June 10, 2013, when Accorti shot and killed five kittens in response to a homeowner’s request for help in ridding her property of stray cats, which have posed a problem in the city.

That incident occurred at a residence where young children were present but did not witness the actual shooting, which triggered protest from angry residents demanding Accorti’s firing, threats of legal action by humane groups, and thousands of signers to online petitions demanding action, including Accorti’s dismissal.

Accorti’s actions at the time were deemed appropriate by Freeman.

The episode led the city to announce it would no longer dispatch police or humane officers to handle feral cat calls, and to the formation of a citizens advisory committee in hopes of developing a better means of reducing the city’s numbers of stray or feral cats.

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