A letter for her father

September 29th, 2011

JCU sophomore Bethany Luketic is asking the John Carroll community, via a Facebook event she started recently, for letters of support.

Bethany was 3 years old in November 1995, when her father and grandmother went to a bank in Collinwood, on Cleveland’s east side, to take out a loan on a recently purchased house. Tony Luketic was a police officer for University Circle at the time.

“[That was] the first time and only time my dad has ever left the house unarmed,” Bethany said.

Tony, who was off duty, and his mother were waiting in line when a man walked in and demanded money from the teller. The teller couldn’t get the money out quick enough, and the robber began to harass her with his gun. Tony intervened and a struggle ensued.

“He ended up shooting my dad in the leg,” Bethany said.

Tony threw the gun out of the way, and his mother went to pick it up. But the hot gun burned her hand, and she dropped it. The robber shot Tony’s mother in the stomach. Another struggle ensued as the robber attempted to aim the gun again at Tony’s mother. Tony was shot in the arm, leaving him disabled.

“[The gunman] was going for the heart, but missed and got him in the shoulder,” Bethany said. “My dad’s arm was held on by his sweatshirt and the leather coat he was wearing.”

The robber then put the gun to Tony’s head and pulled the trigger, but it was empty.

Tony’s mother recovered from her injuries, but Tony, who now works as a parole officer, still suffers from pain caused that day to his left leg and left arm.

“My dad still can’t use his arm fully, he still has pains,” Bethany said. “He went through physical therapy numerous times. He’s had multiple operations on both his leg and his arm. I think he’s had seven leg operations. And his arm is almost all metal.”

Tony, a 1990 alumnus of JCU, was the first recipient of the Campion Shield, which is awarded to those in the JCU community who demonstrate heroism, in 1995.

Ollie Tate, the bank robber, was arrested and sentenced to prison. Now, at age 79, he is up for parole for the second time since he was convicted, Bethany was told by her dad.

“He’s like, ‘We need to write letters again,’” Bethany said.

So Bethany went to the Web to spread the word to support her family. The Facebook event, “Letter For My Father,” was started Sept. 16 and will continue until Nov. 30. She hopes that all the letters will be sent to the Ohio Office of Victim Services then because Tate’s parole hearing will most likely take place in December.

“The first time [he was up for parole] he was denied because of these letters, [and this time] we’re hoping for the same thing,” Bethany said.

According to Bethany, she has received 2,000 hits on Facebook and lots of media coverage. The Facebook event lists 236 people “attending” and 1,440 people “awaiting reply” as of Tuesday night.

One of those “attending,” junior Brooke Wunderly, knows Bethany through their work together on JCU EMS. She plans on writing a letter in support of the Luketic family.

“Bethany is one of my good friends,” Wunderly said. “I’m going to do exactly what she wants us to do.”

The amount of activity on the Facebook event page has astounded Bethany.

“Everyone’s posting on it constantly,” she said. “I’ve gotten Facebook friend requests from police stations, different FOP [fraternal order of police] lodges, [and] different seminars from all over the world.”

Bethany asked Student Union at a recent meeting to collectively write a letter, but President Rita Rochford said that it would be best for individuals to write letters than as a group.

“After discussion with several people involved and in Senate, we determined that the issue at hand is so personal in nature that it is more appropriate to come from individuals than from the student body as a whole,” Rochford said. “With that said, I hope that all those affected will find peace.”

All the attention the Facebook event and story has received has encouraged Tony’s mother to talk about the ordeal for the first time.

“She’s never said a word about it since [it happened],” Bethany said. “And, when she saw it on the news and she got all her phone calls from her friends, she said, ‘I want to talk. I want to write a letter.’”