June 27, 2016

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Man rescued in flooding pleads not guilty to disorderly conduct

Andrew Davis and David Knox | The Gazette
The Medina man charged with disorderly conduct after being rescued from a tree during last week’s flooding has pleaded not guilty.

Lief Christman, the attorney representing Tyler Kitson, 21, of Medina Township, said his client’s unruly behavior was the understandable result of the trauma of the ordeal and he should not have been charged.

“For people rescuing him to write him a ticket afterwards is outrageous,” he said.

Kitson was driving down the southbound exit ramp of Interstate 71 to state Route 3 on May 12 when he ran into a flash flood shortly after 11 p.m.

Also trapped by the rising water was Cleveland meteorologist Dick Goddard, who lives nearby and was coming home from work at the WJW-Fox 8 studio in Cleveland.

Goddard said Kitson got out of his vehicle and tried to open Goddard’s car door before being swept by the fast current. When rescue workers arrived, they found Kitson had scrambled up a tree and Goddard was trapped in his car, with floodwater up to his chin.

Kitson told rescue workers in a rubber boat to go after Goddard first. By the time Goddard was rescued about midnight, the floodwaters were too high and fast to use a lifeboat to reach Kitson. Instead, firefighters ran a truck ladder across the water like a bridge.

Kitson gingerly scrambled across the ladder to the roof of the fire truck, but refused to climb down.

“Do not touch me,” Tyler shouted several times. “I don’t feel safe with him touching me.”

When the firefighters insisted, Kitson responded with profanity and threats of a lawsuit.

Kitson was taken into police custody, charged with disorderly conduct and transported to Medina Hospital for evaluation. He was released after the hospital check.

Kitson eventually thanked the firefighters for rescuing him.

Christman said Kitson acted the way he did because he was under a great deal of emotional stress.

“This was him going through an unbelievably traumatic experience,” he said. “He just wanted to hang onto that tree.”

“He was not drunk,” he said. “He is afraid of heights and being sucked underwater and had a near-death experience.”

Kitson pleaded not guilty to the charge on Monday in Medina Municipal Court. A trial date has not been set.

Disorderly conduct is normally a minor misdemeanor. But the Ohio Revised Code raises the charge to a fourth-degree misdemeanor, punishable by up to 30 days in jail and a $250, if “the offense is committed in the presence of any law enforcement officer, firefighter, rescuer, medical person, emergency medical services person, or other authorized person who is engaged in the person’s duties at the scene of a fire, accident, disaster, riot, or emergency of any kind.”

Medina Township Police Chief David Arbogast said the citation was justified.

“There was some indication that he was intoxicated, although he says he had nothing to drink.”

Arbogast said the police were just doing their job by citing Kitson.

“A lot of people would say he was trying to save somebody’s life, but at the point in time we were involved in it. He was being disorderly,” the chief said. “He was truly disorderly. Now if he has a justification, that’s what the court system is for.”

Contact reporter Andrew Davis at (330) 721-4050 or adavis@medina-gazette.com. Contact David Knox at (330) 721-4065 or dknox@medina-gazette.com.

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The Gazette is Medina County's daily local news source, serving the community since 1832. Contact The Gazette's news department at (330) 721-4065 or areanews@medina-gazette.com.