CAMDEN TWP. — Lorain County sheriff’s deputies subdued a 21-year-old man with a history of mental illness with a Taser on Thursday as an outbuilding at his grandparents’ Gifford Road home burned nearby.
The man, identified by deputies as Edwin Cornwell Jr., has not been charged in connection with the incident. He was being treated at MetroHealth Medical Center in Cleveland for what Sheriff’s Capt. Jim Drozdowski described as a self-inflicted knife wound to the neck.
Camden Township firefighters were sent to 15304 Gifford Road on Thursday shortly after noon. When they arrived, they “heard popping noises and they thought they were being shot at,” Drozdowski said.
Drozdowski said deputies suspect the gunshots heard by firefighters may have been exploding ammunition. He said the family has used the structure for reloading ammunition.
There also were reports that the man later identified as Cornwell ran from the burning outbuilding into the house.
Smoke from the blaze, which burned unchecked while firefighters waited for the situation with Cornwell to resolve, could be seen as far away as Carlisle Township.
Deputies were called to the scene at 12:36 p.m. because of safety concerns and set up a perimeter. They were unsuccessful in their attempts to reach Cornwell by phone. Drozdowski said there was concern that Cornwell’s grandparents, Jim and Carolyn Bryans, might have been inside their house, although it was later determined Cornwell was alone.
Drozdowski said Sgt. Daniel Ashdown then used a loudspeaker to speak to Cornwell in an effort to convince him to come outside. The shirtless Cornwell did come outside briefly before going back inside.
When Cornwell came out a second time, he was armed with a large knife, which Ashdown tried to talk him into putting down.
During the conversation, Drozdowski said Cornwell repeatedly urged deputies to shoot him.
As Ashdown was talking with Cornwell, Deputy Mike Folley approached Cornwell from behind and hit him with a Taser as he was down on one knee while the knife blade appeared to be pointed into the dirt.
Cornwell dropped to the ground. Deputies rushed in to subdue and handcuff him.
Drozdowski said the situation could have ended far worse, given the circumstances.
“The guys did a good job,” he said. “These types of situations could go bad very quickly.”
Deputies still are investigating, but they suspect the fire that reduced the outbuilding to rubble was deliberately set by Cornwell, who Drozdowski said has a history of depression and recently was hospitalized for mental illness.
He said the incident may have been the result of Cornwell’s unsuccessful job hunt earlier in the day.
Family members declined to comment after firefighters extinguished the blaze, but family friend Ruth Groot said she’s known the family for years and said they were good people.
“It’s one of these tragic things that happen,” she said.
Drozdowski said while Cornwell is receiving treatment for his injuries and mental health issues, deputies will review the evidence and decide whether to charge him.
A MetroHealth spokesman said Thursday that Cornwell’s condition was undetermined. Drozdowski said his understanding is the neck wound is superficial.
Contact Brad Dicken at 329-7147 or firstname.lastname@example.org.