Summit County Metro Parks said in a statement Thursday that they've fired Park Ranger Jeffrey Axner, 33, following an investigation into a bizarre incident last month that left an elderly Akron couple bruised and in handcuffs in their driveway.
According to reports, the couple was driving through the Metro Parks on September 27th, when Axner nearly pulled his cruiser out in front of them at the Goodyear Heights entrance to the park at Newton Road. The driver, a 72-year-old man, beeped his horn at Axner and then swerved his Ford Ranger around Axner's cruiser to avoid him. Axner reportedly then turned his cruiser around, and followed the couple to their home on Darrow Road. Once the couple pulled into their driveway, Axner got out of his cruiser, and wrestled the elderly man to the ground, and then kicked his 71-year-old wife to the ground, and placed them both in handcuffs.
The couple was initially charged with resisting arrested, obsruction of official business, aggravated menacing, and failure to comply. Those charges were dropped just a few days later and the investigation into Axner's actions was launched while he was placed on paid administrative leave.
The results of that investigation were revealed Thursday morning, and showed that Axner violated Metro Parks Ranger procedure, exceeded his authority in following the couple to their home outside the Metro Parks in Akron, and also used excessive force when he assaulted them while placing them both under arrest.
Axner has been fired from the Metro Parks Rangers, who say that he violated the department's contract with the Ohio Patrolmen's Benevolent Association (OPBA).
A portion of the Ohio & Erie Canal Towpath Trail in Akron is closed due to a fire.
The fire destroyed a bridge south of Wilbeth Road.
And Summit MetroParks officials say it appears to have been deliberately set.
Nate Eppink with the MetroParks says that not only is the bridge made of a material that's hard to destroy, something else was found nearby in the Canal that could be telling.
"Just off the trail, not far the trail, in the canal, they found a propane tank that was semi-charred," Eppink tells WAKR.net, "so it looks as if that could have been an accelerant."
Eppink says MetroParks' number one priority is to reopen the trail, and they're looking for a temporary reroute while the arson investigation continues. He says MetroParks is "kind of confined" in that area, so options are being talked about.
He says with the spring season and many events at hand, it's important to open that part of the trail soon...before the bridge is eventually replaced.
(Earlier coverage) Not the kind of news you like to hear before setting off on a walk -- but a firebug ruined the morning stroll for a host of Towpath Trail users. Summit Metro Parks officials say a blaze that torched the wooden walkway north of the Wilbeth Road Trailhead on West Wilbeth Road was intentionally set. Most of the decking structure was destroyed, and as a result the bridge will remain closed to all foot traffic until repairs can be made. As with any cases of arson, the public is asked for forward information which may be helpful in catching the perpetrators.
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(Summit MetroParks) An early morning fire destroyed a Towpath Trail bridge in Akron on Tuesday, and it was intentionally set, officials from Summit Metro Parks announced. The trail will remain closed north of the Wilbeth Road Trailhead (392 W. Wilbeth Rd.) until the wooden bridge can be replaced. Anyone with information about the fire is asked to call the park district's administrative offices at 330-867-5511.