Red Cross honors Kent police officers for saving children from ‘shooter’
At any time during their shift, a police officer can suddenly test their mettle and that was the case for Kent patrol officers Leonard Kunka and Kyle Auckland on a Saturday morning in January 2021.
Continued:Kent shooting suspect held on $1million bail
‘These men acted selflessly, rushing into danger and putting themselves in harm’s way to protect two innocent children from a gunman who broke into a house,’ police Lt. Mike Lewis said. of Kent. “Acts of courage like this epitomize what it means to be a hero.”
And their actions have not gone unnoticed. Auckland and Kunka were among seven people from Portage, Summit and Medina counties to whom the American Red Cross of Greater Akron and Mahoning Valley presented a 2022 Acts of Courage award.
Kunka and Auckland would not discuss the incident for which they were recognized, but Kunka said he was honored by the recognition.
“It has been a privilege to be alongside my brother and to be recognized among the other recipients of this award,” he said. “Their stories are beautiful tales that show that caring and caring for others can really make a difference.”
According to police, as well as court records, officers responded to an ongoing burglary at a duplex on East Summit Street near the Kent State University campus around 8 a.m. on January 16. A 14-year-old girl reported on a 911 call while babysitting a younger child – who would have been 1 or 2 at the time – she heard someone trying to enter and is hidden in a bathroom with the child. She said that at that time the intruder was in the house.
The man, 41-year-old Cleveland Heights resident Dante Darnell Dixon, was armed with a handgun and there was a confrontation between him and officers at the home. Kunka was shot in the hand, Auckland in the chest and Dixon in the abdomen, police said. Auckland’s body armor is credited with saving his life.
Continued:Kent Police highlight purchase of body armor after officer shooting
Dixon continued to resist and fight with the police until Kunka, Auckland and other arriving officers overpowered and handcuffed him. An investigation determined that Dixon shot the two officers and himself, with neither officer firing his weapon.
The girl and young child are physically unharmed.
Kent paramedics treated and transported the two officers and Dixon to local hospitals for further treatment. All three were released that day and Dixon was admitted to Portage County Jail.
Kunka suffered multiple fractures to his left thumb which required further surgery and extensive physical therapy. He was finally able to resume his duties.
“Kent Police couldn’t be more proud of Constable Lenny Kunka and Constable Kyle Auckland,” Lewis said. “We are grateful for the recognition that the Red Cross and so many others have given to these officers for their heroic actions.”
As part of a plea deal, Dixon pleaded guilty in Portage County Court of Common Pleas in October to two counts of assault and a single count of aggravated burglary, all felonies first degree and felony in third degree carrying a concealed weapon. Both assault charges are accompanied by firearms specifications. Judge Laurie J. Pittman later sentenced Dixon to 38 to 42 years in prison. He is appealing the conviction to the 11th District Court of Appeals.
Meanwhile, Dixon is currently incarcerated at Grafton Correctional Facility, according to the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Corrections.
Journalist Jeff Saunders can be reached at [email protected]