An Army veteran and retiree who threatened to kill anyone who attempted to demolish his condemned Akron house was taken into custody Wednesday night after he drove away from the property near Summit Lake.
Lawrence “Larry” L. Modic, 57, of Lakewood, was picked up by Akron police after a traffic stop. He was taken to the Portage Path Psychiatric Emergency Services facility in Akron, where he remained under evaluation Thursday, police Lt. Rick Edwards said.
Upon entry into the home at 1480 Manchester Road, police on Wednesday found four rifles and a handgun, all loaded, along with two boxes of ammunition, as well as military-style Meals Ready to Eat (MREs) and a flak jacket, Edwards said.
“Yes, I am willing to take someone’s life” to “protect what’s mine,” Modic wrote in a December email to state Rep. Vernon Sykes, D-Akron, one of many similar threats.
Last week, Modic received a letter from the city telling him the property would be boarded up on or after Jan. 16 and that demolition would follow. The letter also said Modic no longer would be allowed inside the house without city permission.
“Over my dead body,” Modic told a reporter was his reaction to the letter.
On Monday, Modic emailed the city official who wrote that letter. “You will learn that this mistake you made will be costly!” he replied. “I promise you that if this continues.”
The home was boarded up Thursday, and the electricity was cut off, city officials said.
Edwards said Modic was picked up because he was considered a threat to himself or others in the community because of the threats he has made. He had no weapons in his car and did not resist being taken into custody.
Modic, who could not be reached for comment Thursday, has not been charged with a crime.
Edwards said Modic could be given a medical and psychological evaluation at a Department of Veteran Affairs hospital.
He said police and the city were particularly concerned about Modic’s threats after a 1999 incident in which an 80-year-old man shot two Akron police officers, Michael Page and Richard Lilly Jr., during an attempt to demolish the man’s home on Blanche Street. Both men left the police department on medical disabilities after the shootings.
Edwards said it is the city’s obligation to “protect not only the officers or the workers coming or anybody in that area, [but] our obligation is to protect anybody in the community. That’s our job. We don’t want anything to happen to him, either.”
He said that if there are mental health issues involved with Modic, “We are trying to see if he can get the best treatment he can get.”
Home bought in May
A retired Army sergeant, Modic bought the home on a short sale May 30 for $10,000. He said he had no idea the city’s Housing Appeals Board had numerous issues with it and was considering it for demolition.
The real estate agent who handled the sale also said he was not aware there were orders on the house.
The city provided the Beacon Journal with a number of letters it sent to the previous owner, from 2003 through 2011, listing numerous issues it had with the home and said it was the seller’s responsibility to inform the buyer.
Still, the appeals board gave Modic three months to bring the structure into compliance before issuing the demolition order, and he did not comply, the city said.
Stephanie York, director of communications for Akron, said Modic also did not attend a Sept. 18 board meeting in which the demolition decision was made.
Modic called the Beacon Journal several weeks ago, complaining about the potential demolition. When a reporter visited the house, Modic revealed two rifles in an upstairs bedroom closet and said he intended to carry out his threats of taking the life of anyone who attempted to demolish his property.
Sign on door
On the front door at the time was a sheet of paper with the image of a human target and the words: “This property belongs to a military retiree. Nothing inside is worth dying for.”
The city said it took the threats seriously.
“Considering the nature of the threats, the police department has advised that no city employee or contractor is to respond to the property without notifying the police department,” York said at that time.
In addition to the threat against Sykes, York said in a September email to Akron Councilman Mike Freeman: “Now I am fully capable of defending what’s mine after serving over 20 years in the Army.”
“One might consider this a threat, there is no doubt in my military mind it is in fact a real threat. I mean business.”
York said that in a Dec. 12 telephone conversation with Akron Utilities Manager Andre Blaylock, Modic had said, “The city will be in dire straits if they mess with me.”
Veteran admits issues
In the December interview, Modic said he served 13 years of active duty in the Army, then nine with the Ohio Army National Guard before retiring in 1994. He acknowledged he has been in recovery for alcohol and drug issues for 21 years and has been under the care of a VA psychiatrist for 20 years for depression.
He said he now works in the information technology field.
Modic said he missed the meeting in September because of confusion over the date and did not file a court appeal of the September demolition order because he did not have the money to hire a lawyer.
He said he still believed he could bring the home up to compliance by the spring. He said he expects to receive several thousand dollars in an insurance settlement.
Modic said he understands the need for homes to be in compliance for safety reasons and wants to do just that.
“Twenty-two years in the Army taught me a lot of ways of getting by,” he said. “I learned to survive through their training. I don’t like threatening people.”
In December, Modic said he owns the land free and clear and planned to stand his ground.
“It is not a big deal to me taking someone’s life that is coming to take my home,” he said then.
Because water already had been turned off at the home, Modic said he walked across the street to Summit Lake each day he worked on the home to fill two buckets of water so that he could flush the toilet.
He said he wanted to live in the house because of its beautiful location near the lake.
“The day I took possession I was almost in tears,” he said. “The geese that come out here, the kids who play softball. It is just beautiful.”
If the home is demolished, the $4,200 cost will be charged to Modic, city officials said.
His home is part of a large city effort to remove vacant structures. In 2012, 575 homes were leveled in Akron, up 63 percent from 353 a year earlier. Orders on about 380 demolitions are pending.
Jim Carney can be reached at 330-996-3576 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.