A man allegedly held a group of teenagers at gunpoint May 27 behind First Baptist Church on Grand Avenue.
Justin Fronek, 32, of Pittsfield Township, approached a group of 16 campers with a 22-caliber laser-sighted rifle at 10:47 p.m. and proceeded to point the weapon at the group while screaming obscenities until police arrived, according to prosecutor Joe LaVeck.
One teen managed to escape the group and alert a church staff member, who then called 911.
Fronek, who admitted to being intoxicated during the incident, was arraigned Monday on one count of second-degree assault and 16 counts of third-degree felony abduction, to which he pleaded not guilty.
He appeared Thursday before judge Thomas Januzzi in Oberlin Municipal Court for a preliminary hearing, at which time the case was sent to a Lorain County grand jury.
Januzzi ordered Fronek to surrender all firearms to the Wellington police; avoid contact with the victims, their families, the church, or the church’s staff; stay out of the village; and wear a GPS monitoring device.
Fronek’s lawyer, Kenneth Nelson, maintained that the incident was a tragic accident and a case of mistaken identity. According to Nelson, Fronek ventured into the woods after enjoying a bonfire on his property to investigate a suspicious noise. When Fronek came upon the group he believed them to be trespassers, Nelson said.
Wellington police officers Jeff Shelton and Robert Aviles responded to the call. Shelton described a scary situation that could have been much worse.
“God was on our side that night,” Shelton said. “If you walked into a field and saw a man pointing a gun at a group of kids, would you think it was an accident?”
Fronek was compliant with police when they did arrive shortly thereafter and did not resist arrest, according to Nelson and First Baptist Church senior pastor Tom Alexander.
“Our kids were having a camp-out. I’m not sure what (Fronek’s) motivations were,” said Alexander. “The kids ranged from 13 to 17. Our property covers about 20 acres, which includes undeveloped land that was part of an old farm. About once a year, we plan a camp out back there. They were playing volleyball and sitting around a bonfire. The boys and girls had been separated for the night. One of the boys had forgotten a flashlight in our building, so he and our youth pastor went to get it. That is when this man approached our campers.”
According to Alexander, Fronek was approximately 300 yards onto church property when he confronted the group.
Wellington police chief Tim Barfield talked about how the situation has affected the campers and their families.
“This man pointed a gun and held a group of kids against their will on property that he had zero authority over,” he said. “We have some very shook up children over this whole incident.”
Januzzi was upset that Fronek had been allowed to post bond after his arraignment. He pointed out the Oberlin Municipal Court does not have a bond schedule for felonies, which means the $18,250 Fronek posted May 31 may have gone against court rules.
LaVeck was unable to provide Januzzi with a definitive answer as to why or how the bond was given, and declined comment on the subject.
Jonathan Delozier can be reached at 440-647-3171 or @DelozierNews on Twitter.
Jonathan Delozier | Wellington Enterprise Justin Fronek has been formally charged with 16 counts of abduction and one count of assault stemming from a May 27 incident when he allegedly held a group of First Baptist Church campers at gunpoint.