By ED RUNyan
and Ryan Buck
The Warren Police Department says it still has ongoing concerns about threats on social media, and that led to the school district canceling Friday night’s home football game against Lorain High School.
“The social media and all that is still happening,” Lt. Jeff Cole, spokesman for the Warren police, said Friday. He said the department relayed those concerns to schools Superintendent Michael Notar, and school officials believed it would be best to cancel Warren G. Harding’s game.
City officials have not described what specific information has been posted on websites such as Facebook, but they have said that such comments were the reason Warren schools earlier this week asked students not to bring backpacks and bags to school with them. Many students chose not to attend school at all.
The game, the last one of the regular season, will not be made up. Harding finished with a 4-5 record.
The game cancellation is the latest indication that discontent still simmers in Warren after two homicides in the city the past two weeks — both of them in the early Saturday morning hours.
Warren Mayor Doug Franklin and the father of one of the two homicide victims said during a Thursday press conference at city hall they thought tensions were easing but asked news media to be cautious not to add to tensions with their coverage.
Notar issued a statement Friday saying the decision to cancel the game was made in collaboration with Franklin and Warren police because of “tension throughout the city this week, and we felt for the safety of our students, parents, staff and community this is the right decision.”
Nick Frankos, color commentator for Harding football games and president of the booster group Warren Football Association, said he doesn’t remember a Warren football game being canceled before.
That includes the early 1970s, when Warren faced race riots, and Harding-Reserve games created their own type of tension.
Frankos said he understands that the safety of the kids and fans comes first, but he’s unhappy that officials didn’t come up with a “Plan B” that could have been deployed midweek — such as moving the game to Lorain — in the event that safety was an issue.
“That’s easy. We do it all the time,” Frankos said of moving a game.
“You have 31 seniors who can’t play their last senior football game. We told the kids five hours before kickoff. They worked their butts off this week” to prepare, he said.
Paul Trina, Warren Harding athletic director, has been in his position for 18 years and with the Warren Schools for 18 years. He also said he has never seen a situation such as this.
Trina says the game will be ruled a “no contest” by the Ohio High School Athletic Association and will not be made up.
“Due to the fact that it’s Week 10 [of the regular season] and the OHSAA basically ruled tomorrow as the last playing date, it’s not an option for us,” Trina said.
Trina was in the football team’s locker room when the announcement was made by second-year coach Steve Arnold, a Warren native.
“They took it hard, extremely hard,” said Arnold, who found out the cancellation at 2 p.m. Friday. “My concern is for our players, especially our seniors.”
Arnold says, to his knowledge, there were no contingency plans to move the game to Lorain or to a neutral site.
Tensions first arose over the killing of Taemarr Walker, 24, on Oct. 19 on Risher Road Southwest by a Warren patrolman who said Walker drove his car into a ditch at 1:50 a.m. because of a tow truck being in the middle of the road. Walker then moved around inside his car and grabbed a handgun before the officer fired multiple shots at him, killing him, according to statements captured on a police dash-cam video.
Early last Saturday, exactly one week later, Richard Rollison, 24, was shot to death at the Sunoco gas station on West Market Street. Before he died, he told police the shooter was TaShawn “Boo” Walker, Taemarr Walker’s 26-year-old brother.
TaShawn Walker is now in custody in Texas, charged with the murder.
Early Monday, shots were fired at Taemarr Walker’s house in Kenwood Avenue, and a Warren man was arrested while trying to leave the scene.
Shots also were fired that same morning at a house near Taemarr Walker’s mother’s house. No one was injured in either incident.