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Animal group seeks charges

Activists of SHARK want Akron police to investigate rangers, other personnel in shooting of deer in parks

Thursday, June 03, 2004

Akron Beacon Journal

Beacon Journal staff report

An Illinois-based animal rights group has fired another round in its battle with Metro Parks, Serving Summit County over shooting white-tailed deer.

Steve Hindi, a spokesman for Showing Animals Respect and Kindness, on Wednesday asked the Akron Police Department to investigate criminal charges against rangers and other park personnel.

In a police report, Hindi alleged that the rangers and the park district were guilty of three felonies: tampering with evidence, criminal damaging and obstruction of justice.

Recording equipment placed in the parks by SHARK was damaged, Hindi said, and recorded material was erased after the electronic equipment was confiscated by the park district.

Akron police Lt. Sylvia Trundle said the charges will be investigated and police probably will confer with the Akron Law Department.

Park officials were unaware of the police report and declined to comment on it, spokeswoman Susan Fairweather said.

Hindi said he went to the police after Thomas DiCaudo, Akron's chief assistant prosecutor, refused to allow SHARK to file a complaint Tuesday.

Chief Akron Prosecutor Doug Powley said his office cannot handle felony complaints from citizens or groups. Those must be investigated by police departments, and those investigations then will be evaluated for possible prosecution.

In February, Hindi's group placed the equipment in two parks where deer were being shot: Cascade Valley and Munroe Falls. The equipment was found and seized by park personnel.

Hindi alleged that three of six cameras were damaged and everything that had been recorded was erased.

Park officials have repeatedly denied damaging the equipment, which was returned to Hindi on March 30.

Hindi charged that the recording equipment was erased on March 1 by Anthony DeNicola, a park district consultant whose access to the confiscated equipment was provided by two rangers.

Park district reports say that DeNicola, who works for White Buffalo Inc., the Connecticut firm that assisted in shooting the deer, talked the rangers into granting access to the recorders, which had been stored in an evidence locker at the ranger station.

DeNicola refused to confirm or deny that.

In March, the park district disciplined rangers Dave Rankin and Justin Simon. Both were suspended for two days without pay.

Fairweather said the rangers were not involved in erasing or destroying the recorders, but they did break district rules on handling lost-and-found property.

Last winter sharpshooters killed 119 deer in Sand Run and Cascade Valley parks in Akron, Silver Creek park in Norton and Munroe Falls park in Munroe Falls. The hunt was ordered because the large number of deer in the parks was harmful to vegetation and other animals.

Hindi's group contended the deer were mistreated by the hunters.