City closes basketball courts after shots fired feet from kids at Akron park

AKRON, OH (WOIO) - Gates are locked, sidewalks are spray painted with the word "closed," and hoops have been taken off basketball posts at Davenport Park.

The moves come after senseless violence broke out feet away from kids playing baseball Monday evening, violence that ended with gunfire.

"We provide them with shin guards, chest protectors, helmets, all that stuff," said Ellet Baseball Association President Brad Isenhart. "How can I provide security for bullets being fired in a city park?"

Isenhart said the violence has happened for years now. They've seen fights, dealt with drug use and people said the park is sometimes trashed.

"I don't want my kids there if this is going to continue," Isenhart said.

Akron Mayor Dan Horrigan decided to close the basketball courts, but he said the long term future will ultimately be decided by the community.

In a statement, he said: "I have heard the concerns of the Ellet community and am aware the unsettling events at Davenport Park (Monday) night. I have temporarily shut down the basketball courts to alleviate community concerns while we gather additional feedback from residents. The future of the basketball courts at Davenport Park will be a community-driven decision. City parks are community assets that are designed to be enjoyed, accessible, and, above all, safe."

Parents said this is the first time the city has stepped in to try to combat the problem.

"It should not have come down to someone shooting a gun around 5-year-old kids," Isenhart said.

The Ellet Baseball Association feels the only option is to leave Davenport Park. Wednesday evening, a group gathered to clean up a field at Betty Jane Elementary School in Akron. The field hasn't been used in a while, and it will need some work, but parents said it's worth keeping their kids safe.

"It was bedlam. Imagine 200 grandmothers and infants and little brothers and sisters and my team is all 7- and 8-year-olds scared for their lives and hiding. It was terrible," said Dave Dowling.

Dowling was on the mound pitching when the shots were fired. He said his son was scared for his life.

"A couple of coaches jumped on top of our kids," he said. "They were all hysterical. It could not have been worse."

The Ellet Baseball Association hopes to move their baseball games to Betty Jane Elementary School as soon as Thursday. Isenhart said they had a community baseball team cancel a scheduled match following the violence at Davenport Park.

Many people said they don't want the basketball courts to close forever, but they feel something has to be done. Some people suggested a larger police presence or a security guard.

There's an Akron City Council meeting Monday that baseball parents plan to attend to address the issue.

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