Phil Trexler, Akron Beacon Journal, July 20, 2009
All John Alchier could do was sit and pray.
His call to 911 was put on hold, he said, as he sat in his wheelchair and watched a group of teens pummel his brother and friend.
Alchier, 40, had a front-row seat as the teens swarmed a family gathering on Girard Street following the June 27 fireworks show at Firestone Park. Helplessness overtook him as he prayed out loud.
Community leaders are now voicing disgust over the attack, which is an example of the city’s ballooning assault rate.
In police District 6, which includes Firestone Park, reports show that aggravated assaults have more than doubled this year compared with 2008.
The increase in aggravated assaults is even more dramatic in other areas of the city.
What happened on Girard Street is also a symbol of Akron’s hushed racial tension. The victims are white; their attackers are black.
The attack has ignited scores of reaction, including a call for justice for the victims by the Rev. Al Sharpton.
From his view, Alchier said there’s more to the story than has been told.
“The newspapers and the news is not telling the entire story. No one is,” Alchier said from his home in Akron.
Those who witnessed the assault or survived it say this was no isolated incident, and the beatings to Greg Alchier and his friend, Marty Marshall, extended farther than Girard Street that night. A third victim is identified in a police report. More are believed to have been treated for injuries.
“This happens every year; it just depends on which street they decide to go up,” said Greg Alchier, 39, who has attended the neighborhood fireworks show for more than 30 years.
“There’s always a bunch of kids trying to start fights with people. It happens every year, and nothing’s ever done about it. It’s just swept under the rug.”
Case in point, he said: Emergency room personnel at Akron General Medical Center told him that as many as 10 other people were treated for injuries that night after being attacked by a group of teens.
During the assault, John Alchier said, he was placed on hold when he called 911 for police. He has filed a complaint about the call with the department, which said it was investigating.
Although police say they are investigating the attack, Alchier said last week that no detective has sought his interview.
John Alchier’s account of the night matches the recollection of his brother and Marshall, who first spoke of the attack earlier this month.
The families were outside a Girard Street home after walking from the fireworks show, a decades-old annual event that typically draws as many as 10,000 people to the neighborhood.
Greg Alchier, who lives in Michigan, was visiting his family’s home. Marty Marshall, 39, his wife, Yvonne, and their two children were there as well, about 30 minutes after the last fireworks blast. All were outside when a group of teens crowded the street that leads away from Firestone Park.
The group of about 30 to 40 teens was in the road, blocking a car.
One teen ran up from behind Greg Alchier, cutting through the yard, and blindsided him with a blow to the head.
There was no exchange of words leading up to the attack, witnesses said.
“I turned around and said, ‘What the [expletive],” Greg Alchier said. “The next thing I know, one kids yells, ‘Oh, you want to fight?’ and then there’s 15 to 20 of them running at us.”
Greg Alchier recalls someone from the group of black teens yelling: “This is our world.”
Marshall has said he also heard a teen saying: “This is a black world.”
As the group continued to fight Alchier, Marshall jumped in and both men found themselves attacked by a growing number of teens.
Marshall was beaten as he fell to the ground. Greg Alchier fended off teens, trying to help his friend.
“Marty’s fighting a group of kids. I’m fighting a group of kids, and these kids are just running back and forth between us,” Greg Alchier said.
John Alchier said he was frustrated that an injury barred him from helping his brother. He has been paralyzed below the waist since a motorcycle crash 11 years ago.
All he could do, he said, was pray to Jesus for the attack to stop as he was calling 911.
“ immediately went to hold and said all ‘operators are busy,'” Alchier said. “I’m, like, thinking, are you kidding me? I’m watching Marty on the ground just getting completely kicked. . . . There was just a big crowd around him and a big crowd around my brother.
“I couldn’t do anything and I just yelled out, ‘Help us, Jesus’ and when I did that, they all just kind of went away.”
Marshall suffered a concussion and spent five days in the hospital.
As paramedics arrived, a third injured man, a bleeding 23-year-old from Akron, came to the Girard Street house seeking treatment. He said the same group had assaulted him.
John Alchier said an officer told him that a group of teens was stopped immediately after the attack, but the victims and witnesses were not allowed to see the boys to identify them as the attackers.
He said he could have identified only one of the teens by his clothing, a red jerseylike shirt.
“That’s the thing that bothering me: no arrests,” John Alchier said. “They kept continually asking us if we could identify any of them. And all they would let us give them were descriptions.
“They would not let anybody go down and ID anybody. And they said they weren’t going to bring anybody here to ID them.”
Just one description of a suspect has been released. He is a black male, 17 to 19 years old, wearing braids or dreadlocks with red and white beads. He also had braces on his teeth.
As for the race issue, Marshall and the Alchier brothers can’t say whether their gathering was targeted because they are white.
They remain frustrated by the apparent lack of urgency and attention their case has received from police.
The incident was not reported by police to the media until almost two weeks had passed.
Akron police said the department’s public information officer was on vacation at that time and his replacement did not issue a release.
Mayor Don Plusquellic sought the FBI’s help July 10.
Agent Scott Wilson, a Cleveland-based FBI spokesman, said the agency has begun an inquiry in conjunction with Akron police to determine if the case falls under federal hate crime statutes.
Police have not classified the assaults as hate crimes. Officials said they were unaware of the chants, “This is our world” or “This is a black world” until the victims and witnesses spoke to the media.
Councilwoman Tina Merlitti said she’s disturbed by the Girard Street attack, calling it “horrible” and “scary” for the victims. She said, however, that the assault appears to be an isolated incident involving teens who might not live in the neighborhood.
Merlitti said part of the reason she believes her ward is safe is through the efforts of residents working with police and city schools.
Two years ago, Merlitti ordered the removal of basketball hoops from Firestone Park because of growing numbers of youths fighting, playing loud music or nighttime basketball games.
Akron police said there have been 41 aggravated assaults and 108 criminal acts of intimidation in the first five months of this year in the police district that includes Firestone Park. For the same period last year, there were 18 assaults and 89 acts of intimidation, police records show.
Overall, crime is down in the district by 14 percent this year.
[Editor’s Note: An earlier story on the Akron attack–together with readers’ comments–can be read here.]