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Investigation into fire department vandalism continues

By MIKE LESKO Reporter Published: February 8, 2017 12:00 AM

NORTHFIELD CENTER -- After nearly five months, the investigation into who vandalized the Northfield Center Township fire station is still not complete, according to the Summit County Sheriff's Office.

Inspector Bill Holland of the Summit County Sheriff's Office said investigators believe they have done everything they can to determine who damaged fire department equipment. He said no one has confessed and they have no physical evidence that can prove anyone responsible.

Investigators responded to Northfield Center Township Trustee Chairman Paul Buescher, who said he had asked for an update on the investigation. Buescher said he understands "investigations like this take time," but he remains frustrated about the vandalism itself that took place in September.

Initial reports were that someone had poured human urine on turnout gear and mattresses in the Route 82 fire station. Investigators later announced the liquid was determined to be an unidentified substance that was not human urine.

"All we've been told is, the liquid was non-toxic but they don't know what it is," he said. "That's all we know right now."

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Holland said there are suspects, adding investigators have a gut feeling who one of the suspects is, but that person and his attorney have refused to comment. There is evidence against a suspect who allegedly wrote comments on plates inside the fire station living quarters, according to Holland, adding the most severe charge for this could be a minor misdemeanor disorderly conduct citation, but they will have to check with a prosecutor.

Holland said investigators are still waiting to see if there is evidence on a digital video recorder.

He said they were told by fire department personnel it is a live feed only, but said they want to check it, anyway. He added they tried to take it to the Akron Police Department, which was unable to assist them, he said.

Holland said they did not take it to the Bureau of Criminal Investigation because of their backlog. He said they prioritize evidence processing and a case like this takes about a year to get results back.

Buescher said the total cost of the vandalism was $15,149, and the township received a total of $14,899 in reimbursements from its insurance company. The township's deductible was $250.

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The contaminant was found in and on turnout gear, and on the mattresses and floor in the fire station, which was closed "for 1-2 days, then it was back up and running," Buescher said.

Buescher said the clean-up was "massive."

"We replaced the mattresses," he said. "How would you feel if you put your feet in a pair of boots and you felt moisture, then you found out it was all over? It was really disgusting."

Mike Lesko: 330-541-9432

mlesko@recordpub.com

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