Reward is offered in shooting of businessman

Toledo company owner suspects union member

Police say John King interrupted the suspect as he tried to puncture a tire on Mr. King's vehicle's. The suspect shot Mr. King, police say.
Police say John King interrupted the suspect as he tried to puncture a tire on Mr. King's vehicle's. The suspect shot Mr. King, police say.

A $70,000 reward is being offered in connection with the shooting of John King, the owner of a Toledo electrical contracting business who contends he was attacked by a union supporter.

Mr. King, 62, who owns King Electrical Services of Toledo, was shot in the arm at about 11 p.m. on Aug. 10 outside his Lambertville home on the 3300 block of Deepwood Drive. The northern Ohio chapter of the Associated Builders & Contractors and its members have offered the reward for information leading to an arrest in the case. Mr. King contributed $10,000 toward the ante.

"One of our members was shot and we simply want to support any effort to bring the individual who did this to justice," said Ryan Martin, president of the organization's local chapter, based in Broadview Heights, a Cleveland suburb.

According to an account from the Monroe County Sheriff's Office, Mr. King interrupted a suspect trying to puncture the tires of his vehicle on the night of the attack. When confronted, the assailant shot a small-caliber pistol at Mr. King, grazing his left upper arm. Mr. King was treated at the scene.

Authorities described the suspect as being in his mid-20s to early 30s, white, medium build, and about 6 feet tall. He wore a dark-colored T-shirt, jeans, and a dark-colored baseball hat.

In addition to the shooting, a photo provided by Mr. King shows the word "scab" written on the side of his vehicle on the night of the shooting.

Monroe County Sheriff's Detective Jeff Pauli said Friday he is "investigating all angles."

"The union angle is part of the investigation," Detective Pauli said. "That's what's being alleged here."

The report has not been released to the public because it's an active investigation, according to the sheriff's office. Mr. King said he does not have a copy of the report.

Detective Pauli said investigators recovered a knife near Mr. King's vehicle and a shell casing from the bullet that grazed Mr. King's arm. All of the evidence has been sent to a lab for processing.

"We're getting anonymous tips, and we don't believe it to be an elaborate set-up, meaning we don't believe it's a hoax," the detective said.

Mr. King said he was targeted, in part, because his firm has resisted organization by a local union.

"I think perhaps the labor unions feel threatened by us now that, through this economic downturn, we've been growing and getting busier and busier," said Mr. King, who called his firm "the largest non-union electrical company in Toledo." It has about 20 employees.

More than half of employees at Mr. King's company authorized unionizing through the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 8 in August, 2001. Mr. King fought the union certification, arguing in part that the union had conducted an improper election by saying that King Electric employees could receive job referrals with other union electrical contractors. Filings say that 6 out of 10 King workers left the firm for other jobs the day after the election.

The labor board ordered King Electric in 2004 to bargain with the union. The firm challenged the ruling in federal appeals court, which reversed the labor board ruling in 2006.

Matthew Szollosi, an attorney for the electrical workers' union, would not comment on the shooting inquiry or whether the union has been contacted by the Monroe County Sheriff's Office. He said he is unaware of any attempts by the union to organize Mr. King's business since 2006.

"Once the results of the investigation are ultimately unveiled, a lot of questions will be answered, we hope," Mr. Szollosi, who also is a Democratic state representative from Oregon, said.

Mr. King said his company has faced various instances of vandalism in the last several years, including windows of the business broken by rocks and thefts from a company vehicle. The crimes, he said, may be spurred by union contention.

"The reason I'm infuriated about this is they've never come to my home before and violated my safe haven," Mr. King said. "This changes the whole landscape of things."

Toledo Police Capt. Wes Bombrys, who oversees the department's detective bureau, said Toledo police have not been contacted about the Lambertville incident.

Rossford Police Chief Bo Vespi said his department is investigating harassing phone calls to Local 245, an IBEW union hall down the street from Local 8 headquarters in Rossford. Mr. Szollosi said Local 8 also has received "fiercely anti-union" calls and emails in recent weeks.

"Hopefully, once the facts come out, cooler heads will prevail," he said.

Staff writers Tony Cook, Taylor Dungjen, and Sheena Harrison contributed to this report.