As Jim Popiel sat in his living room Wednesday afternoon, he recalled the ordeal he endured last week during a home invasion in the middle of the night.
A still-bruised right eye and scabs on the bridge of his nose are evidence of the lingering effects of that night.
The beloved local figure was sitting on his bed when he heard a knock on the door at 2:30 a.m. He ignored the knocking at first because he was praying, lost in his words. But when he heard the suspects breaking in, he attempted to dial 911.
Unfortunately, he had to turn the phone on and couldn’t dial it in time. The intruders barged into his room, took his phone and demanded to know where he kept his money, he said. When he didn’t answer, one of the suspects struck him with a blunt weapon he believed to be a gun.
Thankfully, his alarm went off, causing the intruders to flee with his phone, wallet and Amazon Echo, and he suffered no further harm.
He remained relatively calm through it all, he said.
“I really thought they were going to shoot me, I really did,” he said. “But I thought I was also in good standing with the Lord, so I felt secure for anything that might happen.”
As soon as he came home from the hospital, he went back to work on his sports report for WOBL.
Popiel said the most disturbing part of the event is the can of lighter fluid found on his porch. The evidence was apparent to Popiel that the suspects’ plans that night were much more sinister than he could have imagined, he said.
After his experience, his home doesn’t have the same feeling of safety and security it did before. It was somewhat broken, he said, but not entirely.
“It’s always with a bit of apprehension that I go to bed every night,” Popiel said. “I’m not falling asleep like I did in the past, but when I do, I sleep pretty well.”
Popiel is a lifelong Lorain resident who taught for nearly three decades at then-Admiral King High School and has continued to work a part-time radio career since the1960s for WOBL and WDLW. He is known fondly as Lorain’s beloved radio sports reporter.
The break-in and assault brought tremendous community support.
His living room is filled with get-well cards and flowers from listeners, friends, former students and children from schools around the county. People honor him in droves at sporting events and his church at St. Peter Parish.
Lorain School spokeswoman Erin Gadd released a statement showing support for Popiel as well.
“It is with deep sadness that we learned of Mr. Popiel’s attack earlier today and we send our deep love and support to him as he recovers,” Gadd said. “Mr. Popiel is an amazing human being. His support of our scholars and athletes throughout the years has improved the lives of not only our youth, but our community at large. His big heart and personality are an inspiration to us all.”
Popiel said he’s grateful for the support and enjoys how much the people of Lorain County care so deeply for a man who has spent his time teaching, praying, caring and reporting.
Contact Bruce Walton at 329-7123 or firstname.lastname@example.org.