Justin Fronek wasn’t trying to kidnap anyone — he was just trying to scare away trespassers.
Testimony to that effect convinced a Lorain County grand jury to reduce felony charges against the 32-year-old Pittsfield Township man, accused of holding a church youth group at gunpoint May 27.
Fronek now faces 16 misdemeanor counts of aggravated menacing and unlawful restraint. His case has been bounced from the county common pleas court back to Oberlin Municipal Court judge Thomas Januzzi.
“This office always takes crimes involving firearms very seriously,” said prosecutor Joe LaVeck. “Obviously, this case involves minors, which requires an extra sense of diligence. It’s not in my jurisdiction to pass judgement on what the grand jury decided regarding the felonies.”
According to the Wellington police, Fronek pointed a .22-caliber laser-sighted rifle at a group of 16 teenage male campers at First Baptist Church. One teen was able to run away from the group and alert supervisors of the situation who then called 911.
Once police arrived, Fronek was compliant and said he mistook the campers for trespassers. He admitted in a June 3 court appearance that he’d been drinking the night of the incident.
Attorney Kenneth Nelson of Avon, who represents Fronek, did not return phone calls seeking comment.
First Baptist Church pastor Tom Alexander released a statement to the Enterprise calling Fronek’s actions “reprehensible and inexcusable.”
It said the Wellington police felt Fronek’s actions met the criteria for felony charges and Alexander, who was not present during the incident, was surprised the grand jury recommended only misdemeanor charges.
“A group of teens went through a terrifying experience that will be with them for the rest of their lives,” he said, later adding, “However, I am very pleased that no one was hurt.”
Alexander said he received a copy of Christianity Today magazine about the same time as the incident and its cover story reported on the ongoing repercussions of the church shooting in Charleston, S.C., one year after it happened. “As I read that article I couldn’t help but realize that I could have been officiating at one or more funerals. I am so thankful that God did not allow that to happen. I am also thankful that the Wellington police were able to take Mr. Fronek into custody without incident, so he was unharmed. We as a church continue to pray for Mr. Fronek and for the victims.”
Jonathan Delozier can be reached at 440-647-3171 or @DelozierNews on Twitter.
Jonathan Delozier | Wellington Enterprise Fronek, shown here in Oberlin Municipal Court on June 3, now faces misdemeanor counts after a Lorain County grand jury rejected felony charges.