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Humane officer in North Ridgeville fired for killing rabbits


NORTH RIDGEVILLE — The city fired police Humane Officer Barry Accorti on Wednesday after a man accused him of killing several baby rabbits.

That man, Sheldon Jones from Texas, was visiting his girlfriend on Raven Avenue in North Ridgeville and said he decided to do something nice for her while she was at class.

First, he washed her car and then moved on to mowing the lawn when he felt a bump and turned over the blades and found that he had accidentally killed a rabbit.

Another baby rabbit hopped out of a hole in the ground when he started digging, and then several more appeared.

Unsure of what to do, Jones said he called a few animal shelters but none answered. Then he called the North Ridgeville police.

As Jones tells it, Accorti allegedly showed up Tuesday afternoon, grabbed the rabbits, which Jones had put in a bucket to protect, and began smashing the heads of the rabbits on the tailgate of his truck in view of Jones.

“We didn’t even exchange five words,” Jones said. “It was just ‘thud!’ and their necks were broken. He tossed them in the bed of the truck and came back and said, ‘Where’s the dead one?’ and tossed it too. He wasn’t even here five minutes.”

Jones described the incident as “pretty disturbing.”

When asked about it, Police Chief Michael Freeman said, “It’s not pleasant.”

“We relieved him of his duties because he didn’t follow procedures,” Freeman said. “We feel that there wasn’t proper communication between the landowner and him … and we didn’t feel he correctly dispatched that particular call, and as a result we let him go.”

Accorti reached the rank of lieutenant in the North Ridgeville Police Department with 31 years of service before retiring. He was rehired in 2012 as a humane officer.

In Texas, Jones is an avid hunter and fisherman, and both he and his girlfriend are animal lovers. In fact, his girlfriend owns a rabbit as a pet.

“I don’t have a problem with shooting an animal, but if I’m going to shoot an animal, I’m going to use it for meat or something,” Jones said.

Jones said he was “pretty happy” when he found out Accorti was fired, but he doesn’t think that’s enough.

“Children walk up and down the sidewalk, people drive by, people mow their lawns, and he did this right in the middle of the street,” Jones said, “It was the most disturbing thing.”

This isn’t the first time Accorti has been accused of taking improper action with animals.

In 2013 Accorti shot and killed five feral kittens, prompting protests from the community and calls for him to be fired. A year later, a North Ridgeville resident claimed Accorti shot and killed a baby raccoon in front of three children, one of whom was his son.

During both of those incidents, Freeman came to Accorti’s defense, saying the raccoon was not shot near any children or dwellings.

The kittens became known as the Woodpile Five, as they were found in a woodpile. After that episode, the city changed its policy and said it would no longer dispatch police or humane officers to handle feral cat calls.

Corinne Jaenke, who organized the protests for the Woodpile Five in 2013, said she cheered when she found out Accorti was fired.

“I was thrilled he was fired, but to hear what he did to those poor rabbits breaks my heart,” Jaenke said. “He needs to seek some counseling.”

Accorti could not be reached for comment.

Contact Jodi Weinberger at 329-7245 or jweinberger@chroniclet.com. Follow her on Twitter @Jodi_Weinberger.

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