COPLEY TWP.: Residents remain on edge after Sunday’s shooting rampage left eight people dead and one hospitalized.
Copley police said this week they have received several calls from residents fearful that something similar could happen to them. They wonder whether even a small dispute could escalate.
“What we try to advise people to do if there is a dispute is to contact us,” said Lt. Luke Marchmon. “If we can get involved early on and try to mediate the dispute, maybe you don’t have instances of violence and maybe it doesn’t allow it to reach this magnitude.
“Certainly [Sunday was] an extremely unusual situation.”
According to police records, there were no earlier incidents from the addresses of shooter Michael E. Hance or his neighbors.
Marchmon said most of the calls the department receives from feuding neighbors are what he calls “quality-of-life issues” — too much noise or problems pertaining to property.
“When we get the calls and people are excited, we try to send an officer there right away to help mediate the dispute and to try to help resolve it to the satisfaction of both parties, and that’s difficult to do,” Marchmon said. “But we try to do that. And that’s essentially what community-oriented policing is all about.
“It’s not separate from police work. It is part of police work. That’s why the people have us here. That’s our job; that’s what we do.”
Marchmon said most incidents obviously don’t rise to Sunday’s level of violence; people shouldn’t be afraid and shouldn’t become shut-ins, closing every window and locking every door, afraid to live their lives and interact with others.
He urged residents to make a call if there is a dispute with neighbors and they don’t feel comfortable about the situation.
“We certainly want everybody to try to be civil. That’s why we are called ‘peace officers,’ ” Marchmon said. “Sometimes people don’t equate the word ‘peace’ with police officers, but that’s what we are.”
He stressed that Copley, with a population of about 17,000, was listed first in the top five safest communities in 2007 in Akron Life and Leisure magazine.
After Copley came Silver Lake, Hudson, Bath Township and Medina.
“We feel that we have a wonderfully safe community,” Marchmon said. “The key into this incident is how willing residents were to contact the police and report to us what was going on. You don’t always get that in some communities, but you certainly get that here. The neighbors were wonderful.
“I think that says it all about this community.”
Akron police community relations and dispatch personnel have not reported an increase in the number of calls from neighbor disputes.
“We usually get the call during the argument or after there is a tragedy,” Lt. Rick Edwards said. “Even then, people are reluctant to talk.”
Copley police Chief Michael Mier sent out a letter Friday thanking township residents for their help and cooperation and apologizing for any inconvenience to people in the affected neighborhood.
More than 200 people attended a community event with worship and song Friday evening at Grace Church Bath Campus on Ghent Road.
Cards with photographs of the shooting victims were handed out as people entered the building. They were given pen and paper on their seats to fill out any special prayers they might have for the victims and ask for prayers devoted to their own needs.
“The things that we chose tonight and the direction we want to go tonight is meant to bring comfort,” Pastor Jeff Bogue said. “It's meant to bring hope and it's meant to reassure of who God is. That's probably been the conversation we've had all week long.”
Statement from family
The Johnson family released this statement Friday morning through the Victim Assistance Program:
“The Johnson Family would like to thank everyone for all their thoughts, prayers, posts, donations, care and concern in this very difficult time. The support the community has given us is overwhelming.
“Russ, Gertie, Bryan and Autumn were loved by many and will be forever missed. There are no words for the loss we are all experiencing. Copley is our home and we love this community. The people here are so caring, loving and generous. We have no words to show how grateful we are for everything everyone is doing.
“The weeks and months to come will be difficult and we appreciate your ongoing support. Please respect our privacy as we go through this difficult grieving process.
“Please also pray for the Dieter and the Shambaugh families. Private services have taken place.
Marchmon said Thursday that the death of Sunday’s shooter does not mean the work of investigators is completed.
Three law-enforcement agencies — the Akron and Copley police departments and the Summit County Sheriff’s Office — are investigating the mass shooting for two major reports to be issued in coming days.
Marchmon said one report, by sheriff’s detectives, will focus on the Copley officer’s shooting of Hance. The other report, by Akron and Copley police, will be a full timeline of events related to the fatal shootings.
Donations to families
Donations can be made at any FirstMerit Bank branch to these funds: the Dieter Family Benevolent Fund, the Michael Johnson Benevolent Fund and the Lynda J. Shambaugh Memorial Fund for Amelia Lynn Shambaugh.
Donations in the name of Scott Dieter also can be made to YMCA Camp Ernst, Camper’s Scholarship, 7615 Camp Ernst, Burlington, KY 41005.
Donations in the name of Craig Dieter can be made to Southwest Ohio Doberman Rescue, Payton’s Place, 2524 Jett Hill Road, New Richmond, OH 45157.
A show of support and solidarity dubbed “Lights on for 8-7-11” will be held from 8 p.m. Sunday until 7 a.m. Monday to mark the one-week anniversary of the shootings.
“Let’s send a message to the newest Copley Angels,” wrote Brent Mason, a Copley High School graduate who set up the event on Facebook.
“On Sunday, August 14, the one-week anniversary of the tragedy, turn on your outside lights from dusk to dawn. The communities of Copley and Fairlawn will glow so bright, the 7 in Heaven will surely see! Please share. Please invite everyone to this, even if they don’t live in Copley.”
The Johnson, Shambaugh and Dieter families will divide 20 percent of the proceeds the Montrose-area Chick-fil-A generates on sales from 5 to 8 p.m.
The restaurant is at 47 Flight Memorial Parkway in Copley.
Beacon Journal reporters Ed Meyer and Jim Carney contributed to this report. Marilyn Miller can be reached at 330-996-3098 or email@example.com. Dave Scott can be reached at 330-996-3577 or firstname.lastname@example.org.