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Video: Ohio fire chief describes being held hostage

Assistant Chief Dennis Hevener said he never feared for his life; he also knew the suspect from high school but hadn’t seen him in 35 years


AMHERST TOWNSHIP, Ohio — An assistant fire chief who was held hostage at gunpoint during a brush fire call said he never feared for his life.

WKYC reported that Assistant Chief Dennis Hevener, with the South Amherst (Ohio) Fire Department, said the man who took them hostage pointed a rifle at him and two others.

“We just kept asking him, ‘What can we do for all of us to just walk away from this?’” Hevener said. “‘What do we have to do to walk out of here?’ He said, ‘Give me a beer. It’s all I want, is a beer. I want one more beer before we leave.’”

The suspect, Roy Griffith, Jr., was burning the leaves that led to the 911 calls. His mother said he has a history of mental illness, was drinking for days and was off his medication.

Chief Hevener said he never feared for his life.

“Really wasn’t,” he said. “I mean the whole time he was never aggressive towards us.”

He also recognized Griffith from high school but had not seen him in 35 years.

“And I think that kind of helped break the ice, because now it was somebody who wasn’t a total stranger he was with,” Hevener said. “It was someone he could talk with, which you kind of, that’s where we were able to keep it calm.”

Griffith eventually used Hevener’s radio to talk with a negotiator.

“I know you have trust issues,” the negotiator said. “But I’m telling you right now, you have my word you can trust me. OK?”

“Like I said, I really don’t care if you guys shoot me, man, kill me,” Griffith replies. “I really don’t care. That’s just the way it is.”

Griffith later surrendered and told a judge he panicked.

“I know what I did was wrong,” he said in court. “But I wasn’t going to hurt anybody. I’d hurt myself before I’d hurt somebody else.”

Griffith never did get his beer and the fire he started burned about a half an acre before it was contained.