Update: Summit school board leader in custody after 5-hour standoff

by RIC MAROTTA and HEATHER BEYER | Nordonia Hills News Leader Published:

Sagamore Hills -- A Friday morning standoff involving Nordonia Hills City School District Board of Education President Steve Bittel at his home ended more than four hours later after Bittel surrendered to police.

Sagamore Hills police and members of the Ohio Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force were at Bittel's home to serve a search warrant. Sagamore Hills Police Lt. Brian Piekarski said the task force contacted the department about a week ago regarding "questionable items" coming from an IP address at Bittel's residence.

Sagamore Hills is in Summit County, about 20 miles northwest of Ravenna.

"They forwarded a multi-page report to us of what they had found; we started an investigation, which turned into a search warrant," he said.

Piekarski said police and task force members arrived at Bittel's Ballantrae Drive home to execute the warrant around 7:30 a.m. He said police greeted Bittel and his wife, who police moved a couple of doors down the street while executing the warrant.

Police then began removing computer-related items from the home.

After about an hour, Bittel said he needed to use the bathroom, Piekarski said. Once upstairs, Piekarski said Bittel got a 45-caliber revolver hidden in the bathroom and fired what police believe was a "warning shot" out of the bathroom window. There were no injuries reported.

Summit County Sheriff's SWAT team was called to the scene to negotiate with Bittel, who was threatening to harm himself, Piekarski said. Bittel asked to speak with his wife, who was present when police arrived, and some friends, Piekarski said.

Police confirmed that a friend from Bittel's church, Bob Fisher, convinced him to surrender, which Bittel did at around 1:20 p.m.

He was taken to Akron City Hospital for psychiatric evaluation and was expected to be released into police custody. There were no charges as of Friday afternoon, police said.

However, charges are pending, Piekarski said. He declined to state what those charges would be.

Area schools were notified of the incident and went on a modified lockdown. Both St. Barnabas School and the Nordonia Hills City Schools sent alerts to parents, informing them of the situation.

Bittel, 53, works as a business consultant, according to a resume provided during his election to the board of education in 2011. He was elected board president last year.

Contact this reporter at emarotta@recordpub.com or 330-541-9433

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