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Published: Thursday, 10/20/2005

Riot's violence haunts victims; 'They want to kill me,' employee thought as shop was looted

BY CHRISTINA HALL
BLADE STAFF WRITER

Weeks before her baby is due, Surinder Kaur found herself locked in the restroom of her brother's North Toledo convenience store with another employee Saturday, fearing for her life as rioters looted the business.

Ms. Kaur, who is eight months pregnant with her first child, already had been hit in the left shoulder with rocks and shoved against a wall. During the melee, her car outside the American Petroleum store was overturned.

"I'll never forget Saturday," the 24-year-old woman said yesterday as she sat quietly on a mattress on her living room floor.

Tom Couture, Lucas County EMS support services manager, looks over a life squad vehicle that was damaged in the riot.
Tom Couture, Lucas County EMS support services manager, looks over a life squad vehicle that was damaged in the riot.
Enlarge

A few hours earlier, Ms. Kaur was released from Toledo Hospital, where she was treated for not eating or sleeping, high anxiety, and a headache since the riot, which occurred after police canceled a planned neo-Nazi march in the area.

Ms. Kaur said she has lost four to five pounds "in only two days." Her brother said her unborn baby is fine.

Ms. Kaur, the other employee, and two or three customers were in the store at East Central and Stickney avenues when the mob of 10 to 15 people barged in.

The employees, who were behind the register, eventually made their way to the restroom. Although she didn't see what happened after that, Ms. Kaur said she thought, "They want to kill me."

Ms. Kaur and her brother said one of the store's neighbors helped the soon-to-be mother escape, protected her, took her to her home, gave her water, and tried to calm her.

Police Offi cer Vicki Schramm refl ects on the riot while sitting at the intersection of Bronson Avenue
and Mulberry Street, where she was hit by a concrete chunk that crashed into her cruiser.
Police Offi cer Vicki Schramm refl ects on the riot while sitting at the intersection of Bronson Avenue and Mulberry Street, where she was hit by a concrete chunk that crashed into her cruiser.
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Ms. Kaur said she doesn't think she'll work at the store if it reopens. "I'm scared," she said.

She isn't the only one thinking about the future after the riot. So is Toledo police Officer Vicki Schramm.

The 13-year veteran was the most seriously hurt officer. She was injured when a hunk of concrete flew through the open window of her cruiser and smacked the right side of her head on Bronson Avenue.

Officer Schramm suffered a concussion and neck strain and has six staples in her head.

"While I was in the ER, the doctor used tweezers to pull pebbles stuck in my head," she said.

Yesterday, she recalled events she's never seen in her time as an officer and defended the police, saying they weren't sticking up for the neo-Nazis, but rather were just doing their jobs.

Officer Schramm and her partner were responding to screams for help and backup from another police crew at Bronson and Mulberry Street when she was hit. The pair drove from the command post, where they had removed their gas masks and helmets to get a drink of water.

"We didn't have time to put our helmets on. We were too worried about getting the car and getting over there," she said.

When the pair arrived, they faced a wall of people and rocks flying through the air. Officer Schramm remembers the instant pain from the blow and yelling to her partner that she had been hit.

After that, she was either in a daze or blacked out. She doesn't remember getting out of the car or walking down Bronson.

"The next thing I remember is my partner pulling up next to me and telling me to get into the car," she said.

He took her to the parking lot of Woodward High School. From there, a life squad transported her to St. Vincent Mercy Medical Center.

Lying on a gurney inside the life squad, Officer Schramm heard members of another life squad screaming for backup as their vehicle was being pelted with objects.

"It was horrifying listening to that poor girl screaming for help," Officer Schramm said. "I was just praying for them that they'd be able to get out of there and be OK. I know what I felt when I saw it. I had just gone through it."

Even as she was being treated in the hallway of the hospital, Officer Schramm was worried. This time it was for her husband, Jay, a detective who was called in to work.

"I begged him to please be careful, to please wear his helmet," she said.

Like Ms. Kaur, Officer Schramm still has nightmares and vividly recalls the events that unfolded that day, leaving unsettling feelings.

The same holds true for Firefighters Aaron Frisch and Kathy Zeller, who were in the life squad under attack. The vehicle sustained about $5,000 damage when its windshield and windows were shattered.

Both firefighters were hurt when they were hit by bricks or other thrown objects, and they were shaken by the incidents, Deputy Fire Chief Bob Metzger said.

"We are there to help people. We're not used to hostility," the deputy chief said. "This is a hard situation to try and explain to anybody. It was completely uncalled for."

Contact Christina Hall at

chall@theblade.com

or 419-724-6007.



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