Cleveland councilman calls for ‘state of emergency,’ more police after shots fired at priest

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CLEVELAND – A Cleveland city councilman is calling for a “state of emergency” and more police officers on city streets as four teens involved in the attempted robbery of a Catholic priest who was shot at three times appeared in court.

Councilman Mike Polensek, who represents Ward 8 including the Collinwood neighborhood where the crime occurred, said “it’s time to declare a state of emergency.” Polensek said the Jackson administration misled council and the public about hiring more officers amid its push for a city income tax increase in 2016.

Polensek is a longtime member of St. Mary’s Church on East 155th Street, where Pastor John Kumse was attacked while on rounds closing for the night around 8 p.m. Monday.

“I’m absolutely outraged,” Polensek said. “I belong to St. Mary's. Not only is that my pastor, but he's a friend.”

Kumse had just collected eggs from a chicken coop on church property when two teens jumped out of bushes and demanded the eggs, according to a police report. They then chased him across the church parking lot, firing three gunshots before escaping into a waiting minivan, according to the report. Kumse was not hit.

The minivan, which was stolen, was recovered on East 150th Street Tuesday, according to police.

Four teens, ages 15 and 16, were charged with aggravated robbery, felonious assault and receiving stolen property and appeared in juvenile court Wednesday morning.

Polensek said they should be charged as adults.

“When you pick up a gun and you prey upon people and your intent is to do bodily harm or to kill, then all bets are off, then you need to be prosecuted to the fullest,” Polensek said.

The shooting was among several recent incidents Polensek noted in a letter written Tuesday to Safety Director Michael McGrath and Police Chief Calvin Williams, expressing his disappointment with police coverage and response in his community.

“Can someone please explain to me what is going on in the 5th District, for the escalating violence and criminal activity has seriously shaken my confidence in the Cleveland Police Department’s ability to deal with these problems,” he wrote.

“The Mayor and both of you, along with other members of the administration promised City residents that along with the passing of Issue 32 that there would be a major ramp up in Police deployment in our wards. I can tell you that without any fear of contradiction that that has not happened on the east side of the City of Cleveland.”

Polensek said Williams told council 1,700 additional officers are needed, yet the administration budgeted for just 65 patrol officers this year, which he said did not result in a net gain due to officers leaving the force for retirement.

“How could you have been so off on how many people we needed? Totally off… total, total smoke and mirrors. That’s what the public was given, smoke and mirrors,” he said. “No more B.S., no more smoke and mirrors. Tell us what you're going to do. You promised us police in the street, visibility. Where is it? It hasn't happened.”

A spokesperson for Mayor Frank Jackson and spokesperson for the Cleveland Division of Police both declined to respond to Polensek’s concerns.​

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