Before she was killed, Cora Baughman entered her neighbor’s garage with a gun and demanded to speak with him, the neighbor told dispatchers in two calls to 911 on Saturday morning.
In the 911 recordings, Richard Knerem, 51, of Windham Township, said Baughman was trying to open his locked door from inside his attached garage and had pointed a gun at him. He can be heard pleading for officers to hurry up as he waited at least 15 minutes for help — or he would take matters into his own hands.
“I have the right to go shoot her, don’t I?” Knerem asked.
“No,” the dispatcher replied.
“She’s threatening me,” he said. “She has a gun in my house, on my property. I’m waiting for your people to get here.”
Read a transcript and listen to the 911 calls.
When a Garrettsville police officer and a Portage County sheriff’s deputy did arrive, Baughman, 66, was shot multiple times in the chest, according to a preliminary report from the Portage County Coroner’s office obtained by the Akron Beacon Journal. No one else was injured.
In a brief statement released Saturday evening, Portage County Sheriff Bruce Zuchowski did not identify who fired the shots. The sheriff’s office has not responded to requests for comment.
The shooting is under review by the Ohio Bureau of Investigation, which typically investigates incidents in which a law enforcement officer has shot someone.
The 911 recordings, released by the sheriff’s office to The Portager Wednesday, suggest a possible origin of the feud between neighbors that nearby residents said has been simmering for months.
Knerem told the dispatcher he had reported problems with Baughman’s septic tank to the county. He said Baughman was upset about it, and now she was banging on his door and windows.
Knerem said he went inside the house, but re-entered the garage to ask Baughman to leave, at which point he said she pointed the gun at him.
The first law enforcement officer arrived on the scene at 9:13 a.m. and waited for backup from deputies. It is not clear which agent arrived first, the deputy or the police officer.
A dispatcher was on the phone with Knerem for three minutes and 11 seconds during his first call, in which he seemed more calm and asked why his call to the non-emergency line was not answered. He seemed more anxious in a second call, which lasted 11 minutes and 29 seconds. It was in this call he asked if he was within his rights to shoot Baughman, and mused about calling “a buddy” to bring weapons if the deputies didn’t arrive soon.
The dispatcher told him not to do that and to remain away from the door. Knerem said an officer arrived but wasn’t coming in. The dispatcher said they were waiting for backup.
Growing increasingly impatient, he questioned why the officer would not intervene. The dispatcher said policy prevented the officer from moving in without backup.
“Our lives are at stake, and one policeman should be able to handle it,” Knerem said. “Because I can go out there and get rid of it right now.”
He abruptly ended the call, saying he needed to call “someone else.”
The sheriff’s office said in a press release that the shooting happened after officers arrived at the scene at approximately 9:30 a.m.
Baughman, who was pronounced dead at UH Portage on Saturday, was charged with aggravated burglary due to trespassing with intent to “inflict harm,” according to an abbreviated incident report from the sheriff’s office obtained by The Portager. The full report has not been released.
The two victims listed in the report were Richard and his wife Barbara Knerem who live where the shooting took place.
The only witness named was an apparent relative of Baughman, 31-year-old Aaron Baughman.
The Portager has requested body cam and dashboard camera footage from the Garrettsville Police Department. The Portage County Sheriff’s Office does not equip deputies with either recording device.
The Ohio Bureau of Investigation inquiry could take months to conclude.
Owen MacMillan is a reporter with the Collaborative News Lab @ Kent State University, producing local news coverage in partnership with The Portager.