Father of 12 killed in Akron shooting
Family, neighbors say landscaper was shot by police near home
By David Giffels
Beacon Journal staff writer
Published on Sunday, Jul 06, 2008
An Akron man was shot and killed early Saturday morning in what police are describing as an ''officer-involved shooting.''
Jeffery Stephens, 42, died shortly before 5 a.m. on the sidewalk near the Celina Avenue home where he grew up and lived with his family.
Akron police released few details Saturday, pending investigation. Police spokesman Capt. Paul Calvaruso said two officers initially responded to a call that a man was firing into a house at 1000 Celina Ave. and that the fatal shooting took place outside, a few doors away. More officers responded later.
He declined to provide the names of the officers who responded.
About 15 of Stephens' family members were gathered on the front porch and in the yard of the white, Colonial-style home Saturday.
Johnson Stephens, the victim's 47-year-old brother, said there had been a Fourth of July party at the home at 1000 Celina Ave. on Friday evening, and the man believed to have fired shots at the house had attended. He did not know the man's name.
He said his brother, a self-employed landscaper who has 12 children, was inside with his family when the shots were fired about 4:30 a.m., and that Jeffery Stephens exited the home with a gun.
''Like any other man would do,'' he said. ''Came out with his gun, to protect his home.''
What happened next is not clear. Family and neighbors said an altercation involving Stephens' adult son occurred a few houses away, and that Stephens went up the sidewalk to intervene. Within minutes, he was dead.
Family and neighbors said Stephens was shot by police.
Police have not specified who shot Stephens. No other injuries were reported.
At midday Saturday, a small brown teddy bear was tied to the chain-link fence with a piece of cellophane above the spot on the sidewalk where Stephens died.
Neighbors kept to their front porches and driveways, some joining the Stephens family to talk quietly, others watching the activity in the quiet working-class neighborhood, where most of the homes were built before 1920.
R.L. Polk, 82, lives across the street from where the shooting occurred. His family and the Stephens family have been residents of Celina Avenue for more than four decades.
''I've never known none of them to get in no trouble in 40-some years,'' he said, his voice choking with emotion. ''It's a good neighborhood. We never had no trouble with the police, and with the people neither. It's hard for the whole street, let alone the family.''
His granddaughter, 31-year-old Erniece Winfield, remembers growing up with the Stephens family a few doors away.
''All this neighborhood's been a pretty nice neighborhood. The sad thing about this whole story is Jeff — he don't bother nobody,'' she said.
Summit County court records show no criminal record for Stephens.
An autopsy was performed late Saturday afternoon. Akron police and the Summit County prosecutor's office are investigating.