Five things you missed over break

Photo from Facebook

1. Kent State alumna killed in hit-and-run

Jimmy Miller

Kent State graduate Ali Fuhrman, 24, was pronounced dead in the early hours of Dec. 27 after a hit-and-run car accident in Millcreek Township, Pennsylvania.

According to reports from Erie News Now and GoErie.com, Fuhrman was riding in the passenger seat of her father’s car around 2:30 a.m. when they collided with another sedan.

Coroner Lyell Cook told Erie News Now that Fuhrman died immediately in the accident. Her father was taken to a nearby hospital and sustained non-life threatening injuries.

Police later identified and located the driver that fled, 29-year-old Matthew Gerrans, and an investigation is ongoing. Charges against the driver are also pending.

Fuhrman, who graduated in 2014, was a member of Kent State’s Delta Gamma sorority, which posted a Facebook status in her honor. Students also painted the campus rock with light-blue paint and Ali’s name in white lettering later in the day of the accident.

GoFundMe page has been set up for Fuhrman and her family. It has raised more than $25,000 in three weeks.

According to Facebook, she was a talent booking coordinator at PS-Stearns Inc., a marketing company in Erie, Pennsylvania.

She was a former bartender at Brewhouse, according to a Facebook post.

2. College Ave. houses demolished to prep for new PD

Emily Mills 

Several houses on East College Avenue, South Depeyster Street and Tonkin Court were demolished over winter break as part of the project to construct a new building for the Kent Police Department.

Lt. Michael Lewis said the project is still on schedule, with groundbreaking for the building coming in the next several weeks.

“The houses came down pretty quick,” he said. “We’re very happy about (the future groundbreaking), and we’re moving forward.”

The 18-month construction of the three-story building is expected to be completed in the fall of 2017.

The city purchased the 15 houses, most of which were student housing, and two parcels of land over the last two years and took possession of the final four houses on the north side of East College Avenue on Sept. 15 of last year.

The houses were boarded up shortly before Halloween last year and were fenced off a few weeks later.

The bid for the general contract for the construction of the building should go out early this year, said city service director Gene Roberts, with construction starting in the spring and finishing in the fall of 2017.

The current cost of the entire project is $18.5 million, excluding design and property acquisition, Roberts said.

That’s an increase from the previous $17 million budget; city council approved the increase in the summer of 2015.

The new Safety Administration Building will be about 32,000 square feet. The budget for the construction of the building itself — the “bricks and sticks” budget — was initially $10.5 million, but Kent City Council approved a new budget of $14 million this summer.

Lewis said the budget increased because the land acquisition cost more than expected and the schematic design of the building was over budget.

Kent city voters approved a 0.25 percent tax increase to fund the new building in November 2013, which has generated about $1 million a year, Roberts said.

Kent-based architecture firm DS Architecture was selected in July 2014 to design the building.

3. Kent State reaches settlement in comfort dog case

Ben Kindel

Kent State made large strides in social justice on Jan. 4 by reaching a settlement with the U.S. Justice Department.

In late 2014, Jacqueline and Brandon Lake , two former Kent State students, reached out to the Fair Housing Advocates Association after allegedly being denied reasonable accommodation for an emotional support animal. A lawsuit was filed naming Kent State, the Board of Trustees, and several university employees (including the director) in violation of the Fair Housing Act. 

Emotional support animals are used to improve mental health in patients with diagnosed psychological conditions such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), depression and anxiety. According to research found on halfofus.org, approximately half of all college students this past year suffered from that which impeded their studies.

The settlement of $145,000, approved by the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Ohio, is split, with $100,000 for the former students, $30,000 to the Fair Housing Advocates Association in Akron, and $15,000 to the federal government.

The settlement also requires Kent State to adopt a policy that allows students with diagnosed psychological disabilities to keep animals in university housing if they provide “necessary therapeutic benefits.”

U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Ohio Steven M. Dettelbach, said in a press release that “Kent State University is to be commended for reaching an agreement that will benefit its students,” and  “…this agreement will help many people who are working hard to earn their fair share of the American dream.”

The university has no comment at this time regarding the settlement.

At this time questions remain as to what impact the settlement will have and if there will be a rise in the number of emotional support animals.

If a student wishes to apply for reasonable accommodation for an emotional support animal, procedures for requests can be found on the Student Accessibility Services website, kent.edu/sas.

Ben Kindel is a political correspondent for The Kent Stater. Contact him at [email protected]

4. Investigation continues in officer-involved shooting

Emily Mills

The Portage County Sheriff’s office is continuing to investigate the four Kent police officers involved in the Dec. 17 shooting of a man armed with a machete. 

Officers Benjamin Darrah, Dominic Poe, Michael Carnahan and Sean Driscoll remain on paid administrative leave, said Lt. Michael Lewis.

Douglas Yon, 25, was armed with a machete and refused to leave his cousin Shauna Yon’s residence at 626 Virginia Ave. in Kent last month.

Yon could be heard on the 911 call saying if police arrived, he ran at officers and made them shoot him. He was pronounced dead at the scene.

None of the officers involved in the shooting had any use-of-force incidents or other negative incidents in their personnel files. 

Many details remain unknown about the incident, including how many officers fired their weapons, how far away Yon was from officers, the number of shots fired and why Tasers were not used.

The last officer-involved shooting in Kent was in 1992.

Additionally, the Kent Police Department is continuing to investigate the Oct. 17 downtown shooting of Reco Clinkscales, 24, and the July 8 shooting of Franklin Benedict, 26, at Lincolnwood Terrace, an off-campus apartment complex.

5. Third suspect arrested in ROTC vans

Payton Moore

A third suspect was arrested Wednesday after damaging two ROTC vans on the Kent campus with molotov-type cocktails in February 2015.

On Jan. 11, Michael Lucas pleaded not guilty to two counts of arson, both fourth-degree felonies. Lucas also pleaded not guilty to two counts of vandalism, a fourth-degree felony and a fifth-degree felony. Lucas posted $5,000 bail and was released until a future court date.

Lucas’s bond states he must live with his parents in Stow, and is unable to leave Ohio. The fourth-degree felony could put Lucas in prison for up to eighteen months; his fifth is punishable by six to 12 months.

Lucas attended Kent State and Stow-Monroe Falls High School.

Lucas Emilio Vidal, a Kent State graduate with a bachelor’s degree in anthropology, and Evan Ecklund reportedly smashed two government-owned ROTC vans – one completely destroyed by the firebombing and the other showing damaged windows after the cocktail failed to ignite. Costs to repair damages exceeded $16,000.

Vidal and Ecklund both pleaded guilty in November. They were found using evidence from the crime scene, matching surveillance footage and tracing their shoe prints to those at the scene.

Kent State Police were unable to comment.