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Published: Thursday, 7/7/2011 - Updated: 3 years ago

As shootings flared, police guarded Toledo gift rock

BY IGNAZIO MESSINA
BLADE STAFF WRITER

Editor's note: The symbols on the rock stand for 'Dashing Pacific,' the group which purchased the Marina District land.

The rock unveiled Saturday at the Marina District was purchased by Dashing Pacific Group Ltd. of China. The rock unveiled Saturday at the Marina District was purchased by Dashing Pacific Group Ltd. of China.
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Toledo police are meant to protect and serve, and apparently -- just one time -- to stand guard over a rock, a tent, and a Dumpster.

Even with gun violence rampant in June and two shooting deaths over the holiday weekend, the fear of possible vandalism against a large rock with painted Chinese characters at the Marina District property -- bought by Chinese company Dashing Pacific Group Ltd. -- prompted the city to assign a police officer to stand watch throughout Friday night and early Saturday.

Jen Sorgenfrei, spokesman for Toledo Mayor Mike Bell, said an officer was also guarding a tent and other items brought to the property by Rudolph/Libbe Cos., for a ceremony Saturday, including the rock, a tent, stage, and a large, metal trash bin.

"There were no specific threats received, but since the property was still owned by the city on Friday when the event [was] set up ... the city would have been liable for any damages that may have occurred," she said.

Vandalism was an "eventuality we sought to avoid and took appropriate measures to prevent," she said.

Ms. Sorgenfrei said the city considered hiring a private security firm, but did not because the Bell administration anticipated that the police patrolmen's union would have grieved that action.

Dashing Pacific Group completed its $3.8 million purchase of part of the Marina District when Mayor Bell signed off on the sale Saturday morning. Wu Kin Hung and Yuan Xiaohong, the two members of Dashing Pacific who purchased the 69-acre piece of land, unveiled the rock during the event that included speeches and lunch.

The ceremony included Ms. Yuan's traditional Chinese dedication of the rock, which she said symbolized the investors' commitment to the city of Toledo and its future. The Chinese script on the rock stands for Dashing Pacific.

"The rock symbolizes the steadiness of our friendship," Ms. Yuan said through a translator. "We will give the rock to Lucas, the elephant that was just born at the Toledo Zoo."

Andi Norman, zoo spokesman, said Wednesday the rock had not been delivered yet.

Rudolph/Libbe Cos. has an agreement with Dashing Pacific to be the contractor on the $200-million-to-$300-million development project at the site.

Councilman D. Michael Collins, a retired police officer, objected to the guard duty.

"When I found out they had officers there guarding the rock all weekend I thought that was a misuse of police officers, particularly with 555 officers available to the city at this time," Mr. Collins said. "We are using significant overtime and calls for service this weekend were astronomical with two homicides and eight shootings."

He said communication between the mayor's office and police patrolmen's union would have avoided the idea of a potential grievance.

Police Chief Mike Navarre said it is not unusual for police to safeguard property. The chief said officers were also assigned to be at the event.

"This was not just a rock," he said. "A tent was set up and … a lot of times we would ask for crews to keep an eye on it, but there was some concern there could be some damage before this event Saturday."

Mr. Bell Wednesday said criticism of his decision to post an officer was unfounded.

"I am OK with the decision I made and we were not allowed to use private security," the mayor said. "We had a lot of planning that went into that event and I would rather have had it go smoothly than not because of the stupidity of one person."

Contact Ignazio Messina at: imessina@theblade.com or 419-724-6171.



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