Article published Saturday, October 22, 2005
23 residents charged in North Toledo riot; many linked to gangs; more arrests likely
By CHRISTINA HALL
BLADE STAFF WRITER
Twenty-three Toledoans were arrested during the last three days for crimes at three businesses, including a looted and burned bar, during last Saturday's riot in the city's north end.
Nineteen juveniles, ranging in age from 13 to 17, and four adults were charged with felony crimes that include robbery, aggravated arson, aggravated riot, felonious assault on a police officer, burglary, criminal damage, and aggravated burglary.
Two of the juveniles were charged with the bar fire. More arrests are pending in that case.
Eight to 10 other people are charged in warrants with crimes associated with the riot.
Firefighter Aaron Frisch returns to work at Station No. 5 in downtown Toledo. He and a co-worker were in a life squad vehicle that was pelted with objects during last week’s riot.
All the charges stem from crimes at Jim and Lou's bar, 3032 Mulberry St.; a 7-Eleven store at 3151 Lagrange St., and Our Food Mart, 454 East Streicher St.
"There is a core group involved in all three of these, and a few stragglers joined up independently," Lt. Bill Moton said yesterday. Police are investigating whether the group had a ringleader, the lieutenant said.
He said many of those arrested are affiliated with the Bloods, Crips, and Folks gangs and Stickney 33, a faction of the Bloods.
The adults arrested and their charges are Precious Smith-Hicks, 26, aggravated riot; Courtney Nunn, 18, felonious assault on a police officer and aggravated riot; Tony Johnson, 33, burglary and aggravated riot, and Kyle Shaffer, 18, felonious assault on a police officer, burglary, and aggravated riot.
Those charged with burglary were involved in the incident at the bar, Lieutenant Moton said.
The investigation is continuing, and detectives have more video to view to try to identify others involved in the Oct. 15 melee after a planned neo-Nazi rally was canceled.
Video from the American Petroleum gas station at Central and Stickney avenues is not good enough to ascertain who was inside the convenience store when it was looted, Lieutenant Moton said.
Detectives have been working around the clock and getting help from colleagues, such as school resource officers, to identify the adults and juveniles involved.
Authorities also are waiting for additional video, such as aerial shots from a Detroit television station.
"We're quite tired right now," Lieutenant Moton said.
Police said they have video - from the department, the media, and the public - that shows suspects entering the businesses.
Eyewitnesses can place them at the scene and parents who saw their children on television brought them in to police, the lieutenant said.
Some of those arrested have confessed to being involved.
The lieutenant said one can only speculate on their motive.
"I'm not sure if they were caught up in the moment, or the riot was going on and they used it to cover the crimes they wanted to commit," he said.
In addition to investigating the crimes, police internally are looking at what happened in terms of how they handled the situation.
The Toledo Police Patrolman's Association is forming a committee to critique the department's response, see what improvements need to be made, and make those findings public, said Gregg Harris, president of the union.
Union members' concerns include a need for riot training and equipment, such as more shields and updated helmets.
They said command officers gave conflicting orders the day of the riot and officers were twice told to retreat.
"I think there were mistakes made. We don't want them to happen again. They could have cost one of our lives," Mr. Harris said.
Deputy Chief Derrick Diggs said command officers at the riot met this week to discuss what went right and what needs to be improved, such as more training and equipment.
He said some decisions amid the confusion were made because of concerns for officer safety. Deputy Chief Diggs said he decided to have officers "disengage and reorganize" until they had additional resources to make the necessary arrests.
"We did the best we could with the resources we had at that time to avoid any loss of life," the deputy chief said.
Deputy Chief Linda Mason said when an event of that size occurs, it's difficult for things to run perfectly smooth.
"I think a lot of times there's a lot of confusion. A lot of stories and rumors circulate. There's a lack of understanding about something that's done for a purpose," she said.
While police announced the arrests and the union spoke of its committee, firefighter Aaron Frisch returned to work yesterday. He and Kathy Zeller were in a life squad vehicle, dispatched to stage in the area of Otto and Oakland streets, when the vehicle was pelted with objects.
"The crowd in the middle of the road broke and started running our way," he said.
"We just heard that police released tear gas. We assumed they were dispersing, and then the rocks started coming through the windshield," Mr. Frisch said.
"I was in a momentary state of shock."
The door windows shattered and an object hit the father of 10 in the left elbow. His partner was hit in the head. The object sheared off some of her long hair.
A brick caused the front windshield to crack like a spiderweb. The brick was imbedded in the windshield from the time Mr. Frisch backed out of the area to the time he arrived at St. Vincent Mercy Medical Center, where he took his partner for treatment.
"If it would have hit me square in the face, I wouldn't be here talking," he said
"In times of universal deceit, telling the truth will be a revolutionary act." George Orwell