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Man charged with threatening people with ax in Frick Park

| Monday, June 24, 2013, 12:03 p.m.
Pittsburgh police charged Frederic Park, 39, who has been living in Frick Park, with aggravated assault, reckless endangerment and ethnic intimidation. Police said he threatened two people with an ax in the park on Saturday.

A man with an ax knocked Norman Papernick's water bottle out of his hand and threw a trash can at him “Donkey Kong-style” during a bizarre encounter during the weekend at Frick Park, Papernick and Pittsburgh police said.

“It was a little bit scary, but to me, it was an incredibly random encounter,” Papernick, 37, of Squirrel Hill said on Monday. “He didn't seem to target me as a person. He targeted me as something that he happened upon.”

Papernick was one of two people who reported being attacked by an ax-wielding man on Saturday in Frick Park. Police arrested the man, identified as Frederic Park, 39, on Sunday when they responded to a report of a suspicious person on Beacon Street in Squirrel Hill. Police charged Park, who has been living in Frick, with aggravated assault, reckless endangerment and ethnic intimidation.

Papernick told police he was walking on a path with a friend when a man swung an ax at the water bottle he was carrying.

“My first thought was, ‘Someone is playing a prank and knocked a water bottle out of my hand, how silly,' ” Papernick said, adding that when he picked up the water bottle, Park began following them. “He had this very glassed-over, glazed look on his face. I asked him if there was anything we could do for him. He walked up to a trash can and Donkey Kong-style threw it at me.”

Papernick said he dodged the trash can while his friend called 911.

Also on Saturday, Steven Williams, who is black, told police he was doing pull-ups in Frick when Park called him a racial slur and said “God bless the KKK” before swinging an ax at him, according to a criminal complaint. Park then took off his shirt and walked toward the woods while Williams rode his bike toward the park entrance and dialed 911, police said.

After receiving a warning from the Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy, the Pittsburgh Trails Advocacy Group posted a message April 19 on its Facebook page about a man with a hatchet threatening people in Frick Park. Pittsburgh police spokeswoman Diane Richard said she could not find previous police reports about the man.

John Kandray, 40, of Regent Square said he filed a police report on Friday after a man he knew to carry an ax threatened to kill him and ran toward him in Frick. Kandray said he's seen the man in the park doing landscaping work for at least a year.

“Most of the time, he didn't seem like he was bothering somebody, except for recently,” Kandray said. “Hopefully, he can get some help.”

Police said Park has been living in the woods in Frick since his father kicked him out of his home several months ago. According to a protection-from-abuse order Park's father filed against him in August, Park has schizophrenia and has been treated at Western Psychiatric Institute and Clinic in Oakland.

A judge ordered Park held in the Allegheny County Jail in lieu of $10,000 bond. He has a preliminary hearing scheduled for July 3.

Margaret Harding is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-380-8519 or mharding@tribweb.com.

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