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Caretaker defends account of attack as officials focus on safety

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A discussion between the Toledo City Council and Park Caretaker Ric Kindle Sept. 16 about his surviving an attack at Kemp Olson Park last month has turned the focus away from Kindle’s statements to the press and onto continued safety at the park.

Kindle had been attacked Aug. 16 by a stranger in the park after hours, and told this newspaper the attacker followed Kindle back to his trailer after being told to leave and assaulted him, resulting in grievous injuries to Kindle’s forearm. But statements by Kindle to police and Toledo officials, according to such entities, have differed from Town Crier’s report of the attack, and Kindle was asked to account for these differences during his meeting with the council.

"We’re hearing all kinds of stories," said Mayor Jerry Pratt, stating a police report filed by the first officer on the scene, from Winlock, stated Kindle and his assailant, later identified as Toledo resident Joseph W. Clift, shared a six-pack of beer between them prior to an argument ensuing, while a statement to Toledo PD said the attack was immediate, among other differing details including pets involved in the scuffle.

"I can’t remember what I told him, to be honest with you," said Kindle of his encounter with law enforcement, asserting the latter form of the attack is most accurate, according to his memory. "I was shook up pretty bad that night."

Pratt said he was concerned the different versions of events, both of the attack and of Pratt’s later reactions to our original article, had been encouraging rumors and misinformation to be spread, which stand to undermine efforts made by the city and community members to improve and promote the park.

Kindle apologized and said he did not recall or realize he had made contradictory statements and said he shares the city’s desire to care for what he feels is an outstanding recreational area.

"It’s perfectly safe, as far as I’m concerned," he said of the park, stating his attack should be regarded as an "isolated incident" and was the first of its kind in the eight years he has served as caretaker.

Pratt said he expects Kindle to be more mindful of how he relates to the press and to the community, stating Kindle represents the city as caretaker and should be more aware of how his statements and actions affect public perception. He added he was not angry with Kindle and made no indication of any disciplinary action to be taken, but said he hoped Kindle would understand the importance of his position within Toledo and how significant the park is to the city.

During the discussion, Kindle was reminded of the importance of calling 911 when possible conflicts have arisen at the park, with Council Member Mike Thomas stating Kindle should not even bother calling Pratt or other officials for help prior to calling police.

"It shouldn’t be a second-hand call," said Thomas. "It should be 911."

Thomas also mentioned concerns about the placement of Kindle’s trailer at the park, stating it was not near enough to the woodshed, bathrooms and kitchen where vandalism issues have been reported. It was stated Kindle’s trailer is currently positioned to be able to see the entrance to the bathrooms and the kitchen, and that his trailer had once been closer but did not maintain adequate line of sight.

Council Member Guy Spratt suggested, to improve Kindle’s view as well as overall park safety, the city could inquire of the Lions Club to see if they would be able to trim excess tree branches and undergrowth to provide a clearer line of sight.

"I’m sure they’d be happy to do it," he said, with officials acknowledging the many contributions of labor and facilities the club has provided for the park.

Kindle also suggested the city could post signs stating the park is closed from dusk until dawn and Pratt said he could have the request placed on the agenda for the next meeting, Oct. 7.

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