Supporting police

A group of more than 30 people at various times gathered in front of the Bob Evans restaurant on Trimble Road on Sunday to show their support of local law enforcement. 

MANSFIELD — Lori Musick said she owes her life to the Mansfield Police Department. 

On more than one occasion in her adult life, a Mansfield police officer has come to her rescue, whether to help her escape domestic violence or save her from a horrible car accident. 

"If it wasn't for the Mansfield police, I wouldn't be here," Musick said. 

So when she heard there would be an event on Sunday to show support for local law enforcement, Musick drove from Ashland to join a rotating group of more than 30 people gathered on Trimble Road and lend her voice. 

"It's time for me to give back," she said. 

The location of Sunday's show of support was purposeful. On July 3, two Mansfield police officers were allegedly refused service at the Bob Evans restaurant at 525 N. Trimble Road.

When Mandie Devault caught wind of the incident on Facebook, she and her husband Dan's Facebook group Back the Blue Central Ohio decided to organize two events over the holiday weekend as a show of support - though she said she can't take full credit for the event's success. 

"We were told (the officers) were seen, they were seated, and then they were kind of ignored," Devault said. "So we came out to let everybody know that maybe they need to start supporting our law enforcement as well." 

The Bob Evans corporate office could not be reached on Sunday. Greg Cox, director of operations for the Trimble Road restaurant, said he has been with Bob Evans since 2001 and has never seen behavior different than offering service to all guests. 

"We would never refuse service to anyone," Cox said. "We are a part of this community and we offer great service to our guests. Hospitality is our number one goal and we serve all people." 

Mansfield police Chief Keith Porch was also unavailable for comment on Sunday. 

The Back the Blue Central Ohio group has been liked more than 800 times. A similar page, Ohio Going Blue, has also addressed the incident; that page has nearly 288k likes. 

Devault said she started her page a few months ago not as a protest group, but purely as a show of thanks and support. 

"It was just our way of pretty much speaking out for them and letting everybody know they're not all bad," she said. "Unfortunately there are a few who push the envelope, but we still stand firm behind the 99 percent of the great ones who are out there for us."

David Sullivan also came from Ashland on Sunday to support local law enforcement in response to calls to defund police.

The movement aims to divest funds from police departments and reallocate them to non-policing forms of public safety and community support, such as social services, youth services, housing, education, healthcare and other community resources.

"With all the defunding and everything that everybody's screaming, who are you going to call when something goes wrong? Are you going to call a social worker, are they going to come out and do anything?" Sullivan said.

"These guys are out here upholding the law, risking their life every day, and all they ask for is a little respect," Sullivan said.

Devault said she was pleased with the turnout at Bob Evans over the weekend. She hopes to organize a large event in Ontario in the near future to further show support for local law enforcement. 

One thing is certain - if there are future events, Musick will definitely be present, if not in person then in spirit. 

"I feel very passionately that we're all human beings; I know there's some bad apples, but police are human beings, too," she said.

"There's always good and evil, but for the most part I feel like police are out there to serve and most are good." 

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