AKRON, Ohio — More than a year before he lost an off-duty officer to gunshots, Akron Police Chief Jim Nice told the I-Team that Ohio’s gun laws needed to change.
Officer Justin Winebrenner, 32, was shot and killed early Sunday morning while trying to diffuse an unruly customer at a bar.
Authorities arrested Kenan Ivery, 35, in the shooting — a man with a long criminal history that includes drug dealing and, the chief said, two charges of having a weapon under a disability (meaning possessing a weapon when he was not legally allowed to do so).
“It makes me so mad, I can’t see straight,” Nice said during in an interview in February of 2013.
At that time, the chief was talking about what he saw as the weakness in the state’s laws for punishing felons who illegally possess guns.
Nice allowed the I-Team to ride with his narcotics officers to see what it was like out on the streets.
In just the first three hours, we saw officers arrest four suspects — and the last one had a gun on him that he was not legally allowed to carry.
At Sunday’s news conference, the chief said felons who are picked up for illegally carrying a gun do not go to jail in Summit County.
“It is not considered a violent crime,” he said.
Last year, the I-Team reported that statistics show 57 percent of violent crimes in Ohio are committed by one percent of criminals.
Nice wants a law similar to the federal “felon in possession” law, which has strict penalties for illegally carrying a firearm.
“In the federal system, people are doing seven years for ‘felon in possession’, and in the state system, seven hours,” he said.
A similar bill has been proposed in the State Legislature, but it has not passed.
Nice said if we can’t keep the small number of people who commit most of the violent crimes off the street, “we will never be safe.”