By Doug Livingston
Beacon Journal education writer
Akron police say a Barberton man broke into Akron’s National Inventors Hall of Fame STEM School, stole equipment and sexually assaulted a 12-year-old girl student.
Resource officers, employed by Akron police and assigned to Akron schools, detained Samson W. Peterson, 21, of Jefferson Avenue in Barberton, at the middle school Wednesday afternoon.
School officials said Peterson gained access to the downtown building at 199 S. Broadway by walking through the front door as a vendor exited at 1:30 p.m. The front entrance contains two sets of doors. The outside set unlocked. The other set can only be opened by a buzzer or from within.
Dan Rambler, director of Student Support Services, said staff members and students know not to let anyone in. He said that message will be conveyed to all visitors as a team of resource officers and safety personnel is assembled to audit the security of all buildings, identifying weaknesses.
“We’re going to go through every building, then we’re going to do it from here on out,” Rambler said Thursday. “If any parent or anyone has any concerns, please let us know. We want to make sure every child is safe at every moment.”
Rambler said two resource officers, one regularly assigned to the STEM middle school and another visiting, were present during the incident. Both were giving a training session to students at the time that investigators allege Peterson, wearing an overcoat, entered the school and blended in with adults.
Once inside, the man stole two laptop computers and two cameras and then lured a young girl into an empty office, where he allegedly fondled her, police said.
Rambler said the man bumped up against the girl from behind, at which point she screamed and ran into an adjacent classroom where a teacher notified staff.
The building was placed on a half-hour lockdown as resource officers searched for and detained Peterson while investigating the incident.
Peterson was booked into the Summit County Jail on charges of breaking and entering, criminal trespassing and gross sexual imposition.
Summit County Common Pleas Court documents indicate Peterson was previously arrested Feb. 6 on a charge of cocaine possession, a fifth-degree felony. He was released on a $5,000 bond and scheduled for a pretrial hearing at 2 p.m. Wednesday, a half-hour after he allegedly slipped into the STEM school.
Peterson was convicted in 2011 of breaking into a Washington Avenue home in Barberton. He also was found guilty of underage possession of alcohol charge.
Upon his request in November 2012 to be released from the Lorain Correctional Institution in Grafton, he wrote to a judge: “With all intentions I will become an asset to my family and thee [sic] community it self.”
Peterson told the judge he had “pondered on what I can do to change my life course.”
“I will say again that I have learned a grate [sic] lesson being here,” he stressed to the judge. “I must say, this has been my wakeup call in all.”
The judge, however, denied Peterson’s immediate release, citing “multiple infractions while incarcerated.”
Peterson is expected today in court to be arraigned on the most recent charges.
Doug Livingston can be reached at 330-996-3792 or firstname.lastname@example.org.