"There are no strangers lurking in the bushes waiting to attack. Violet Township and Pickerington are safe and wonderful communities," Pickerington Police Commander Ralph Portier said.
Since November, three separate shootings have occurred in Pickerington, but in each case the victims probably knew their attackers, according to police officials.
"It is easy to be scared and paranoid if you don’t have the whole story," Portier said.
The first shooting occurred Nov. 3 in the Simsbury subdivision. Three men wearing dark clothing forcibly entered the home of Rodriccos Williams and shot him. He ran to a neighbor’s yard where he collapsed. Williams was pronounced dead at Grant Hospital.
Because the case involves an ongoing investigation alongside the Columbus police, Portier could not comment other than to say that the home was targeted and that "it’s not hard to fathom (the murder) might have been drug related."
According to Franklin County court records, Williams was scheduled to be arraigned Nov. 19 in Columbus for drug possession.
Two January shootings
In January, Pickerington police and Violet Township EMS responded to two shootings a week apart.
On Jan. 21, Dustin Lares of Pickerington told police that a stranger shot him in the arm while driving on Meadows Boulevard. He escaped and drove to find help.
Police determined the wound was self-inflicted and Lares has been charged with falsifying a police report.
"The investigation very quickly showed the story didn’t match the injury. Liars usually tell two or three (stories before creating one that will be) believable to others. (Lares) had a difficult time telling us the truth," Portier said.
The trajectory of the bullet did not match his claim and police believe he actually shot himself on Doty Road rather than Meadows Boulevard.
On Jan. 28, Joe Rowser of Canal Winchester told police he had just left his girlfriend’s home in Preston Trails when his car broke down. After he lifted the hood, he stated two men attempted to carjack him. One of the men shot him in the shoulder, but Rowser managed to drive back to his girlfriend’s home to call for help.
Police could not fully comment on the case because it is an ongoing investigation; however they believe Rowser’s injury may also have been self-inflicted. The trajectory of the bullet does not match Rowser’s story, and other elements of his account do not make sense, according to police officials, such as, if his car was broken, why would anyone want to steal it and how did he drive back to his girlfriend’s house?
The bullet that pierced Rowser’s shoulder was .45 caliber. Police have not recovered the weapon; however a .45 caliber gun belonging to Rowser’s mother is missing.
The story must match the injury, Portier said.
Child abuse incidents
Many child abusers tell stories inconsistent with their victim’s injuries. The police have been told of an injury that resulted from falling down stairs when the child’s throat bore a hand-shaped bruise.
Pickerington police investigate an average of six child abuse cases a year. Most people report incidents directly to Fairfield County Protective Services (FCPS). In the United States 900,000 children are abused each year, but many more cases are not reported. Experts estimate the actual number of children being harmed at around two million.
"I’m thankful we don’t have that many (child abuse cases) in Pickerington. One is too many," Portier said. "It’s easy to get pregnant and it’s easy to get a girl pregnant. There are mothers and fathers and then there are parents – we want parents."
FCPS estimates that, of the 4,000 reports of abuse they receive every year, more than a third originate from the Violet Township area. The agency will have a 1 mill levy on the March 4 ballot because they can only afford to investigate 40 percent of the reports they receive. If voters approve the levy, the owner of a $100,000 home would pay $2.56 per month.
If you suspect a child has been abused, call FCPS at (740) 653-4060 to file a report.
Domestic violence incidents
Two high-profile cases of domestic violence drew attention to Fairfield County Sheriff DavePhalen’s jurisdiction recently. Last November, Robert Garten murdered his wife, Sara, step-daughter, Valorie and the family dog before turning the gun on himself. The tragedy took place at their home off State Route 204 in Violet Township.
On Feb. 2, Michael Znamenacek shot his estranged wife, Stacey Lee, as she traveled along Salem Church Road near Lithopolis, then he shot himself. Stacey Lee had filed a restraining order against Znamenacek.
Phalen recommends the Lighthouse shelter in Lancaster for victims of domestic violence. The shelter provides a safe place to stay and will help victims obtain protection orders from the prosecutors’ office. The phone number for the shelter is (740) 687-4423.
Pickerington police statistics
The number of Pickerington police runs in 2007 totaled 28,427 compared to 19,937 in 2005. One rape was reported as opposed to three in 2005. Burglaries, car thefts and assaults also dropped. More information regarding police statistics can be found at the city of Pickerington Web site at www.ci.pickerington.oh.us.
The Web site also includes the "Top Ten" notable cases of 2007. In one incident two children home alone were forced to sit on the floor while three burglars stole a 200 pound safe from their house. Two of the perpetrators have been apprehended.
Another case involved a man taken hostage and forced to drive by an armed assailant. He became free of his captor after crashing his vehicle. The gunman is now in prison.