Officers find ‘no pattern’ to recent crimes, boost patrols

Ben Wolford & Pamela Crimbchin

Details emerge about robberies, Kernich assault

Latest updates on Kent Crimes

&bull Kent State Police Chief John Peach says the attack on Christopher M. Kernich was not inspired by racial comments.

&bull Peach and city police do not believe recent robberies are connected to a string of campus robberies at the beginning of the semester.

&bull University and city police will bump up patrols in their jurisdictions, said Peach and Kent Police Department Lt. Jayme Cole.

&bull The students robbed at gunpoint in the Silver Oaks Place parking lot said they followed three men to their cars to get alcohol before being held up. Nothing was taken, and no one was harmed.

&bull The suspects arrested in Kernich’s assault will likely face increased charges as a result of his death, Peach said.

Police officials have acknowledged appeals from the Kent State community on comment boards and Twitter feeds for a response to a recent uptick in violent crimes.

Their message: The campus is safe. But just to be sure, the city and university police will boost patrols.

“Front campus, the bar traffic – you’re gonna see us,” said John Peach, chief of the Kent State Police Department. “It’ll cost a little more money, but that’s going to be well worth it.”

The extra money will come from paying officers time and a half for overtime. He said officers will especially watch for people in off-the-path places.

Lt. Jayme Cole, of the Kent Police Department, said more of their forces will be sent out to patrol. He did not give specifics, except that they will be in full force.

“We never want to get to that point where people don’t think they have every right to go downtown and enjoy themselves without putting themselves in jeopardy,” he said.

Cole said, and Peach also indicated, that the two recent robberies at Silver Oaks Place and the university Commons are not related to the muggings on front campus at the beginning of the semester.

“The robberies that happened earlier were cleared; there were arrests made in those cases,” Cole said. “Beyond that, I don’t have any reason to speculate that they are linked.”

And Peach said he has no reason to believe the two weekend robberies were connected in any way.

Not a matter of race

The attack that killed junior pre-business major Christopher M. Kernich was not fueled by racial tension, Peach said.

“The windows had tinted glass,” he said. “They didn’t know what race was inside the suspects’ car. Some of these rumors that are taking place are ridiculous.”

The Kent Police Department is investigating the case, but Peach said he has been in contact with officials there.

Some Web sites and blogs have suggested in explicit language that Kernich was at fault in the beating, and they cite race as a catalyst for the assault.

“Nobody could have predicted how these suspects acted and why,” Peach said. “It’s inexplicable.”

According to a Nov. 16 statement from the Kent Police Department, Kernich and a group he was walking with on North Main Street were nearly struck by a car. Three suspects in the car drove farther ahead and pulled into a driveway, then waited for the group as they continued walking toward them.

Kernich died Saturday from head injuries.

Investigators have not released any more information in the case, and witnesses have declined to comment.

Peach said Ronald G. Kelly, 20, and Adrian A. Barker, 21, of Akron, who were charged with felonious assault, will likely face greater charges.

“It depends on what the grand jury says – whether or not it was pre-calculated or not pre-calculated, you could make an argument,” he said. “Without having the specifics of it, certainly they’ll be raised.”

James Peach, chief of the Kent Police Department and John Peach’s twin brother, did not respond to a message left at his office in time for this report.

Robbed at gunpoint

“It wasn’t a huge deal,” said Tyler Conkle, who was held up by three armed robbers. “Everybody made it out to be a lot more serious than it was.”

Conkle, a freshman physical therapy major, and two other friends were robbed at gunpoint around 2 a.m. Saturday in an apartment at Silver Oaks Place off of Loop Road.

City police had no information to divulge other than what their press release said: Two students were robbed by three suspects who left in a gray Ford Contour.

Conkle said he was walking back from a Midnight Movie in the Kiva with his friends, freshman pre-med major Gabriel Goldstein and junior finance major Francisco Javier Cordero.

They had encountered three men, the suspects in the robbery, outside the Kiva before they went in the building and talked about some trivial things.

After the movie, they were still there. The three men offered alcohol to Conkle and his friends and invited them back to their car at Silver Oaks to retrieve it.

When they got there, Conkle said the suspects asked him and his friends to look for the alcohol in their trunk, then one of the men pulled out a gun.

“The one guy, the Hispanic one, came out of the passenger side with a gun pointed at me and my friend and told us to flip our pockets,” Conkle said. “Instantly our hands shot up.”

Conkle said none of them had any money, and after the suspects looked through one of their wallets and found nothing, they allowed them to leave. Conkle said the situation could have been worse.

“(The Hispanic suspect) was like, ‘You fell into our trap,'” he said. “He’s like, ‘You know how it is when you’re broke; you gotta make money somehow.'”

“Every once in a while, people just break into apartment complexes and, even rarely, into dorms through first-floor windows,” said Alice Ickes, crime prevention specialist for the Kent State Police Department.

She said this is uncommon and does not happen very often.

“When times are tough, people get desperate for money, and something that can easily be grabbed is very valuable,” she said.

To keep your possessions and home safe during Thanksgiving and winter break, Ickes made some suggestions:

Protect your stuff over break

&bull Remove small, portable things from your home that someone could easily take.

&bull Lock all doors, windows, patios and sliding doors. Also, brace all sliding doors with a broom handle or something sturdy.

&bull Close all blinds and drapes to keep things out of sight.

&bull Have a neighbor or someone else near your home keep an eye on things to make sure your possessions are safe.

– Suzi Starheim

Contact public affairs reporters Ben Wolford at [email protected] and Pamela Crimbchin at [email protected]