July 28, 2014

Medina
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Brunswick police chief explains details of weekend standoff

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BRUNSWICK — A man pointed a gun at his ex-girlfriend’s head just moments before he was fatally shot by police officers after a 30-hour standoff on Jefferson Avenue.

“His death was precipitated by the fact that he had held a hostage; he had shot a hostage,” Police Chief Carl DeForest said at a news conference Monday.

Brunswick Police Chief Carl DeForest addresses the media Monday and provides details about the 30-hour standoff on Jefferson Avenue. (GAZETTE PHOTO BY LOREN GENSON)

“When the tactical team made contact with him, he raised a weapon and pointed it at the hostage, and there is an indication, and it seems reasonable to believe, he intended to do her physical harm or possibly kill her at that point.”

Terrence Abel, 39, was killed after five members of a Southwest Enforcement Bureau SWAT unit entered the home at about 7:30 p.m. Saturday.

The hostage, Rahna Fahringer, 46, was taken to MetroHealth Medical Center in Cleveland for treatment of gunshot wounds to her leg, left hand and right arm.

She was listed in good condition Sunday. On Monday, a hospital spokesperson said no information was available, meaning she either had been released or requested no further information be released.

DeForest said Abel shot Fahringer in the leg shortly after entering the home at 1528 Jefferson Ave. about 1:30 p.m. Friday.

The chief said it’s not clear whether Fahringer’s wounds to her hand and arm were the result of shots fired by Abel or by the SWAT unit in the final moments of the standoff.

The state Bureau of Criminal Investigation is investigating the shooting and standoff, the chief said. It could be four to six weeks before a final report is completed.

DeForest would not say what triggered the decision to send in the SWAT team, but he did provide some details and a timeline of the standoff during the news conference at City Hall.

Officers arrived at Fahringer’s home at 1:43 p.m. — five minutes after receiving a 911 call from Abel’s brother, Charles.

“My brother’s got a gun and he’s going to his ex-girlfriend’s house to shoot her,” he told the dispatcher.

The brother told the dispatcher he didn’t know the house number and was afraid to approach the house.

“I’m two doors down, don’t want to pull up because I don’t want something to happen,” he said. “I’m freaking out here.”

The police dispatcher directed Charles to pull up to the house.

“If he’s going in there to do what you’re initially reporting he’s doing, then I don’t care if you have to pull in front of the house or not. Go get the house number,” the dispatcher said.

After the brother provided the exact address, officers went to the home and found the door had been broken in and barricaded, DeForest said.

After sealing off the house and yard, officers made contact with Abel, who refused to come out of the house and said that he was armed with a weapon.

At 2:34 p.m., Medina County’s SWAT unit arrived. About two hours later Brunswick contacted the Southwest Enforcement Bureau, a regional law enforcement group that includes Brunswick, and Brunswick Hills and Hinckley townships in Medina County and more than a dozen other Cuyahoga County communities, including Strongsville, Berea and Parma.

In addition to a SWAT and sniper team, the Southwest Enforcement Bureau has officers who have received special training in hostage negotiations.

DeForest said there was rarely a break in the negotiations and that Abel told officers his original plan was to kill Fahringer and himself.

DeForest said Abel was given many opportunities to give up his hostage and surrender.

Repeatedly throughout the negotiations, Abel would agree to release Fahringer at a specific time but never followed through.

The chief said negotiators were not aware Fahringer had been shot in the foot — apparently shortly after Abel came into the house but before police arrived.

“We had contact with her throughout this entire time — asked her how she was at one time and she complained that her foot hurt,” DeForest said. “But she’s a hostage in a situation where she knows there’s an immediate risk to her well-being, so she probably hesitated in giving us the information that she was actually shot by the suspect.”

DeForest said Abel did not request money or anything else in exchange for releasing Fahringer.

“He was not requesting anything of material value,” DeForest said. “He was not requesting any consideration for prosecution.”

The chief added, “There was a time when he indicated he would not come out because he did not want to go back to prison.”

Abel served two stints in prison, according to state records.

After being convicted of felony theft in Cuyahoga County, he served six months in a state prison, from September 1997 to January 1998.

In 2010, he pleaded guilty to burglary and again was sentenced to prison. He was released in January 2011 and placed on probation.

In addition to the prison sentences, Abel also served time in the Cuyahoga County Jail after pleading guilty to receiving stolen property in 2007 and to attempted burglary and attempted robbery in 2008.

DeForest said Brunswick police had contact with Abel recently.

Officers went to Fahringer’s home on Oct. 1 after receiving a request for a “welfare check” and on Nov. 3 after a report of a domestic dispute involving Abel, who was not in the house when officers arrived.

On Nov. 26, Fahringer went to the Medina County Common Pleas Court and obtained a protection order against Abel.

In requesting the order — which barred Abel from going near Fahringer and her two children — she said he had abused her for about six months and she feared for her life. Her children were in school when the standoff began Friday.

Fahringer, a Kent State University graduate, had moved into the Jefferson Avenue home in 2009. The home was built by Habitat for Humanity and she had completed more than 300 volunteer hours as her share of sweat equity in the project.

Contact reporter Loren Genson at (330) 721-4063 or lgenson@medina-gazette.com.