By Ed Runyan
Three young Niles men, indicted last week by a Trumbull County grand jury and accused of gang activity, are accused of kidnapping and badly assaulting a 21-year-old Niles woman.
They were arrested Sept. 21.
A Niles police report said that on Sept. 15 the woman was held hostage for three hours at a home on North Chestnut Avenue, during which time she was pistol-whipped, stomped on, beaten with a belt and kicked in the groin.
The woman’s stepmother told police the woman was “terrified” to talk to police about the assault “because they threatened to kill [the victim’s] kids and family.”
The stepmother told police she thought the young men involved were “the so-called gang members Savages.”
The indictments for Douglas E. McGuire, 18, Jamaz L. Protho, 18, and Daniel J. Uncapher, 20, say all three participated in the assault and other acts, marking them as gang members under Ohio law.
Each man faces charges that could produce a prison sentence of up to 40 years. Protho and Uncapher have remained in the Trumbull County jail since their arrest. McGuire was able to post $50,000 bond and was released Oct. 1 pending trial.
The charges include kidnapping, felonious assault and aggravated robbery with a gun in the Sept. 15 assault and “participating in a criminal gang,” a charge not seen in Trumbull County recently.
Their indictments say the three men and three juveniles were part of a gang known as Savages, Savage Inc. or Savage Ent. that used colors and engaged in illegal activities.
McGuire is of 36 Washington Ave.; Protho is of 164 Royal Mall; and Uncapher is of 1340 Youll Street.
Those addresses are spread throughout the northeastern part of the city, but a Niles woman who knows many of the young men and boys says the focus of their activities was close to her home in the northeast corner of Robbins Avenue and state Route 46.
Just a couple of markings are left on a garage and a garbage bin along an unnamed alley behind the Circle Street apartments. White paint covers up at least two other garages where Savage graffiti had been.
Chelle Kowal says the reason Savage members marked up so many buildings near Circle Street is that they frequently spent time in a parking lot there, and some of the juveniles in the gang lived on Circle Street. They also spent time across Robbins Avenue near Murphy Park.
Niles police, who say prosecutors have asked them not to discuss the criminal charges against McGuire, Protho and Uncapher, concur with Kowal that the gang was responsible for graffiti near Circle Street and near Murphy Park.
A newly built bridge across Mosquito Creek to carry bike trail traffic on the Niles Bikeway had to be repainted before the public unveiling in October because of Savage graffiti, Detective Dan Atkins said.
Kowal said it’s easy to dismiss the actions of the approximately 10 boys and young men involved as “wannabe” gang activity because of their age, but their actions have become increasingly dangerous.
“At this point, it’s not just kids trying to be cool. It’s bad. They’re breaking into cars. They’re breaking into houses. They’re playing with guns. A lot of them were innocent to begin with. I knew them as nice little boys. As they started hanging out with the older boys, they wanted to do what the older boys do,” she said.
Over time it became apparent that the older boys were threatening the younger ones, she said.
“You can’t get out of it that easily. Some wanted out, but they were threatened, beaten up,” she said.
Kowal said she’s known one of the three men charged since he was a little boy and has tried to persuade him to get out of the group. She also tried to keep her teenaged daughter away from the group, but it’s been hard because some are her friends.
In addition to using graffiti to mark their “territory,” the Savages wear green bandannas.
Since the Sept. 21 arrest, things have been quiet in her neighborhood, Koval said.
In addition to the Sept. 15 assault, Protho and boys age 15 and 16 are charged with the Sept. 8 assault of a man on North Bentley Avenue in which the youths pulled up at 11:22 p.m. in a silver Jaguar and yelled, “Get out of the road.” The man was walking with his wife and daughter.
After other words were exchanged, four youths got out of the car and “sucker punched” the 50-year-old man and continued to hit him, leaving a head wound.
Protho and McGuire also face one charge each of trafficking in counterfeit controlled substances. That stems from a “controlled” drug buy set up by Niles police Aug. 9 at McGuire’s house. McGuire and Protho sold fake heroin, but selling fake heroin carries the same potential penalty as selling real heroin, Atkins said.