Firefighter held hostage in Lorain County reacts

Firefighter held hostage in Lorain County reacts
Two South Amherst firefighters were held hostage for two hours. (Source: WOIO)
Two South Amherst firefighters were held hostage for two hours. (Source: WOIO)

LORAIN COUNTY, OH (WOIO) - One of the firefighters held hostage by a man in Lorain County Wednesday night is sharing his experience.

Officials say firefighters were called to the area of Hornyak Street and Quarry Road near the Ohio Turnpike for a brush fire.

According to the police report, Roy Griffith Jr. was armed when he came out of his nearby residence and told firefighters he was going to put out the fire, not them.

Three firefighters were taken hostage at the fire truck in the field. Two other firefighters took cover in the woods, just southeast of the truck.

"You can never say you've seen everything, because about the time you do, something like this happened. I've never seen this before," said Assistant Fire Chief Dennis Hevener, who has volunteered with the South Amherst Fire Department for decades.

Hevener says he felt surprisingly calm, even as Griffith pointed an FLA Assault Rifle at him. He says, somehow, he knew everything would be alright.

"We never once felt threatened by the guy. Right from the get-go, 'I'm not going to hurt anybody.' He just wanted help. And, that was his cry to get help that way," described Hevener.

For two hours, Hevener says the firefighters had a fairly normal conversation with Griffith though they did try to keep him calm.

It turns out that Hevener went to South Amherst High School with Griffith years ago. Hevener thinks that connection helped.

"He talked about -- he was a boxer at one point in time in his life. He had numerous jobs and he lost them because the companies closed up, or he got laid off. He couldn't find steady work, and he was just depressed," added Hevener.

Meanwhile, a hostage negotiator was trying to yell to Griffith to convince him to surrender. Hevener says Griffith eventually did break down and the hostage situation ended peacefully.

"We kept saying, 'What do we have to do to walk out of here?'" explained Hevener. "'Get me a beer,' Griffith replied. That's all he wanted was one last beer before he walked away."

Even after the stress of being taken hostage, firefighters didn't get to go home right away. They had to finish putting out Griffith's backyard fire as soon as police took him away.

Griffith, 53, is locked up in the Lorain County Jail on a $500,000 bond. He's charged with felonious assault, kidnapping, having weapons while intoxicated and inducing panic.

He is due back in Oberlin Municipal Court on Oct. 28.

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