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A local Ann Arbor protestor, and frequent speaker at city council meetings, would disarm Officer Rick Cornell in May of 1998. How she did so was highly unusual however.

Officer Rick Cornell had many contacts with the protestor who obviously did not hold him in high regard. The protestor decided to take action and obtained a “Personal Protection Order Against Stalking (Non Domestic)” against him. This was served through the mail and Officer Cornell arrived at work to find that Judge Richard Halloran, of the Wayne County Circuit Court, had approved this order.

In the order, she alleged that she had filed numerous complaints with the Ann Arbor Police Department as “Mr. Cornell” had been stalking her for over a year. She alleged she could get no satisfaction from the police department and the respondent (Officer Cornell) was observed by two citizens peeping into her windows. She alleged that Cornell had harassed her on numerous occasions, made racial slurs against her and confronted her without cause. The order stated Cornell would drive his motorcycle or car around Ann Arbor to stalk her and that “he has conspired with cohorts to bring physical and emotional harm to her.” She further stated the respondent had an “obsession” with her and is “mentally imbalanced.”

Some of the restrictions in the order were that “Mr. Cornell” could not:

  1. Carry a weapon.
  2. Approach or confront her.
  3. Appear at her workplace.

Now since the judge ordered “Mr. Cornell” not to carry a weapon, he was told by Sgt. Szynwelski not to go on patrol and to work in the police station for the day, away from the public.

The problem with the order was that the protestor left out some very pertinent facts in her application for it. She neglected to tell Judge Halloran that “Mr. Cornell” was an officer with the Ann Arbor Police Department and that his contacts with her were all professional in nature. Sgt. Szynwelski spent the day trying to clear the matter up with the judge, as the order was legal and binding. He was told to have Officer Cornell come to the Detroit Court to clear the matter up.

Officer Cornell, Assistant City Attorney Bob West and I went to Detroit the next day. We thought that we would be taken into the judge's chambers and an apology would be given to Officer Cornell for his inconvenience. When we arrived however, we were told to go into the packed courtroom where the judge was hearing divorce decrees. We found that we were on the docket and had to wait for our case to be called. When it was, ACA West told the judge of the circumstance and the order was dismissed by the judge without comment.

The whole situation was actually very interesting. This new law enabled a citizen to walk into court, call an officer mentally imbalanced, neglect to tell the judge he was an officer and obtain an order prohibiting him from carrying a weapon. The court is under no obligation to do any investigation, to ascertain if the petitioner is truthful.

The Alligator Pit Bull

On September 23, 1998, Sgt. Greg O'Dell and Officer Wilma Purcell were dispatched to Champagne Street in reference to two dogs fighting. When they arrived they found it was not quite two dogs fighting, but a Pit Bull carrying around a 115 pound Bernese Mountain Dog, named Elliott, by the throat. Elliott was being walked by Beverly Richards, a professional dog walker. Richards stated, “I have never seen anything like this. I have been walking this dog on a daily basis and we go past a yard where there are two pit bulls. They usually act a little crazy when we go past, but this time I saw the dog leap one fence, jump over another and grab Elliott by the throat.”

There were workman in the area and they ran over to help. “They started hitting him with their tools,” Richards said. “There was a hatchet, a hammer and a rake and the dog just would not let go. A man driving by stopped and sprayed the pit bull with mace, but it did not do any good.

“Meanwhile, I'm still hanging onto Elliott's leash and trying to pull him away, but the pit bull won't let go and is dragging him around. I'm covered with blood, scared to death and feeling helpless because nothing we could do would get that pit bull to release poor Elliott.”

Sgt. O'Dell did have an idea to release poor Elliott from the pit bull's mouth. First, Sgt. O'Dell and Officer Purcell emptied their mace into the pit bull's eyes. Elliott still remained in the pit bull's mouth like a rag doll and they thought he was dead. The officers stepped up the force and used their nightsticks to club the pit bull, still with no results.

“Nothing we did seemed to faze that dog,” Sgt. Odell said. “It had the other dog by the throat and was tearing into it like an alligator. It was horrible and I've never seen anything like that.”

The force continued and Sgt. O' Dell retrieved the dog noose from the command car. He attempted to put it around the pit bull head's but, “the dog kept batting it away with its paw. It was a dangerous situation,” said O' Dell. “We had run out of options. We got people out of the area and I drew my gun and fired for the first time in 19 years as a police officer.”

The pit bull was finally convinced to release Elliott, the Burnese Mountain Dog, after being struck in the heart by the bullet fired by Sgt. O' Dell. The pit bull staggered around for a few seconds, then fell to the ground and died.