Akron little league parents paying for off-duty cop at games following shooting at Davenport park

Posted at 4:41 PM, May 22, 2017
and last updated 2017-05-23 17:31:47-04

Little league parents from the Ellet Baseball Association are paying for an off-duty Akron police officer to work security at games following gunfire that erupted at Davenport Park last week.

An officer is scheduled to be at evening games on Monday and return for all games during the remainder of the season.

On May 16, parents watching their children play baseball heard fighting from the nearby basketball courts and then a series of gunshots shortly followed.

RELATED: Basketball courts at Davenport Park in Akron closed after shots are fired during fight

The fighting and the sound of the gunfire was shared on social media.

"I just stood up and I was screaming at my husband, 'Those were gunshots. Those were gunshots,'" said Mary Stephanoff, who is a member of the association and has an 8-year-old son who plays little league.

Parents became human shields for their kids. No one was hit by a stray bullet. Police haven't figured who was responsible for the shooting.

"We were yelling at the kids, 'Get down! Get down on the ground!' They were just standing there dumbfounded. They had no idea," Stephanoff said.

The next day, Mayor Dan Horrigan announced the basketball courts would be closed temporarily and the rims were taken down.

He said the future of the courts would be a "community-driven decision."

The debate over the four courts was the talk of Monday night's overflowing city council meeting, with several little league parents pleading with council members to do something about the ongoing disturbances.

Kary Bailey recommended someone check IDs and require park users under a certain age to be accompanied by an adult.

Buddy Kim said nobody should even be allowed in the park after dark.

Many in the little league community applauded the decision to shut down the courts, including Stepanoff, who said drugs, fighting and vulgarity are on-going problems around the courts.

"I wouldn't mind it being closed down completely. We have football season coming up too after baseball and our Ellet cheerleaders practice there so they're subject to that too," she said.

But other residents like Ben Dennis feel the courts should re-open because a few bad apples shouldn't spoil it for everyone.

"They need the courts to go out and maybe let off some steam and have fun. I know if they keep them down, it's gonna keep other people away, and the people who cause problems are just going to move to another park," Dennis said.

At Monday's meeting, Gregory Harrison said there needs to be more police presence and surveillance cameras.

“We have to catch the people who are making the parks unsafe," Harrison said. "If we’re not going to arrest anyone, then there’s no deterrent.”

There had been no arrests as of Monday in last week's disturbance. Mayor Dan Horrigan said he'll listen to the feedback and come up with solutions in the future, which he said, will not include closing parks.