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Old 01-29-2004, 01:12 AM   #1
KevinBeane
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Default Just wanted to tell someone....

Before I moved to Delaware a little over a year ago, I had a large group of friends, a clique if you will, that I hung out with. We would always gravitate towards one guy's place, which was a very large warehouse which he had converted into a gigantic art studio. He would throw parties and book local DJ's to spin at them. As such, the clique sort of grew and grew and grew.

One guy who never missed a party was "Paul." I wouldn't exactly call Paul a friend, but then again, maybe I would. He was sort of....pathetic. He would corral you into dull conversations that seemed to last for hours, because he needed friends and wanted to belong. He smoked unbelievable amounts of weed. He was always sort of down-and-out....trying to sell you unimpressive jewelry he made, or (more pathetically) old, torn-up issues of Penthouse he stole from his dad (he was in his early thirties to boot), whatever he could sell to scrape by.

Still (stay with me here), he had redeeming qualities. He may have been boring, but he was in fact smart. He was unfailingly friendly. He may have been pathetic, but there was an earnestness in both the way he would try to scrape by financially and in the way he would try to win our respect. We may have snickered at him behind his back, but we didn't shun him.

I feel bad for snickering behind his back, or ever thinking an uncharitable thought about him now:

*****

Theft suspect's death probed
Grocery worker accuses man of shoplifting; group pins him down
By Ed Meyer
Beacon Journal staff writer

An Akron man accused of shoplifting at a Portage County Giant Eagle grocery store died Wednesday night after struggling with store employees and customers in the parking lot, police said.

Paul J. Niskanen, 31, of 297 E. York St. in Akron, was pronounced dead at Robinson Memorial Hospital in Ravenna at 7:40 p.m.

Portage County Coroner Roger G. Marcial said preliminary results of an autopsy performed Thursday by the Summit County Medical Examiner's Office were inconclusive about the cause of death.

Marcial said there were no outward signs of trauma to the body. Toxicological tests were ordered to help investigators determine why Niskanen died, the coroner said.

Portage County Sheriff Duane W. Kaley said deputies arrived at the store at 6:54 p.m., six minutes after receiving the shoplifting call, and saw at least four people holding down Niskanen in the Giant Eagle parking lot at 4620 State Route 44 in Rootstown.

Kaley said Niskanen had left the store with a grocery cart containing pizzas and other items without paying.

Store manager John M. Maczko followed Niskanen to confront him about the incident and soon was joined by store worker Jonathan Stress, who had been gathering grocery carts in the parking lot, the sheriff said.

Kaley said a struggle occurred after Niskanen punched Stress in the chest, knocking him to the ground. Other store customers saw what happened and helped Maczko and Stress pin down Niskanen, the sheriff said.

When deputies arrived, Niskanen did not respond and had no sign of a pulse, Kaley said.

Maczko, 54, refused to comment when contacted by phone at the store. He was treated for unspecified injuries and released from Akron General Medical Center, Kaley said.

Stress, 23, was not injured, the sheriff said.

Investigators do not know why Niskanen allegedly failed to pay for the groceries, Kaley said. He said the incident remains under investigation and asked anyone who witnessed the struggle to call the detective bureau at 330-297-3890 or 330-296-5100.

Niskanen, according to Akron police and court records, had been in a whirlwind of trouble this week.

Akron police had arrested him Sunday on three misdemeanor counts of possessing drug paraphernalia and another misdemeanor charge of illegal drug manufacturing.

Court records show that when police arrived at an Ira Avenue residence in response to a call about a stolen guitar, they found Niskanen there with three marijuana pipes in plain view and marijuana plants nearby.

After Niskanen was booked into the Summit County Jail, he was charged there on Monday with criminal damaging, endangering and disorderly conduct; he was accused of damaging his leg shackles, which had to be cut off, court records state.

Then, on Wednesday morning, only hours before the Giant Eagle incident, Niskanen appeared in Kent Municipal Court on a charge of driving while under license suspension. A court official said Niskanen pleaded not guilty and was released on a personal recognizance bond.

Niskanen's cousin, Sarah Niskanen, said the family had little information about the Giant Eagle incident. She said Niskanen was not married and had no children, but she was too distraught to comment further.

According to Akron Municipal Court records, Niskanen also was arrested in May 2002 on a domestic violence allegation involving his mother, Mary Niskanen, 56.

Records showed he was convicted of disorderly conduct in a bench trial and paid $185 in fines and court costs.

*********
I can't defend his drug use, and I certainly can't defend, condone, or excuse his actions in punching the store employees.

Still, unless he happened to have a heart attack when this happened.....

....I don't know. I'm at a loss for words. I hope the store employees/G.I Joes who pinned him down with (perhaps) LETHAL FORCE are proud, making the world safe for frozen pizzas and those who would legitimately buy them. I hope they go to prison.

Just had to vent. Never had a friend, if only a distant one, die violently. Thanks, everyone, just for reading.
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Old 01-29-2004, 01:42 AM   #2
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This post is a reminder that the names we casually read and scroll past while reading the "police blotter" are names of REAL folks.....real live human beings who have interacted with other....and who have their own life story....albeit perhaps often a pathetic sort of one.

Thanks for that, Kevin.

Mr Niskanen appears to have "asked for it" by throwing an ill-advised punch.

At that point, all bets are off.

Was "deadly force" used...??

I dunno....

Mr N's number was just up and nothing will bring him back now.

Not even a beer bong or 7.
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Old 01-29-2004, 06:52 PM   #3
El Jefe
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Sad story. :-/
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Old 01-29-2004, 07:16 PM   #4
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Kevin,

I have nothing intelligent to add. So, I'll just say I read it, it is a strange and sad story, and I understand the anger and sorrow you express.

We humans are mildly pathetic lot, I think.

I was trying to come up with a random shot at poptart, but it just doesn't feel right.

Dave
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Old 01-29-2004, 08:11 PM   #5
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Very sad and tragic.
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Old 01-31-2004, 09:49 PM   #6
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Sorry to hear about this. I lost a loved one a couple months ago and until then, I'd never had to deal with death. You find out that you're never ready for death, and you never truly appreciate someone until they die.
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Old 02-01-2004, 12:19 AM   #7
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It's a sad story, by all means, yes, it is. But like you said, Kevin, I can't agree with his drug use or his "assault" on the store employees. One thing I would like to say, though, is that the story provided by Kaley may be more or less truthful. Since Paul was accused of shoplifting, he will necessarily be looked upon with contempt by some, including the authorities. That in itself might help Maczko and Stress get away with it; I'm not saying that either of them directly caused Paul's death, but it wouldn't surprise me to learn that Paul was not the one to initiate the physical altercation.
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