RAVENNA, Ohio – Larry Shafer, a longtime public servant for the city of Ravenna who was a guardsman at Kent State University during the 1970 deadly shootings, died Friday, his family said. He was 67.
Shafer’s death came a day before the 43rd anniversary of the gunfire at the northeast Ohio college. His cause of death wasn’t immediately known. Mayor Joe Bica told the Kent-Ravenna Record-Courier newspaper that Shafer died during surgery.
Kent State was the scene of Vietnam War protests May 4, 1970, when the Ohio National Guard opened fire on students. Four students died and nine were injured in the shootings, which contributed to the change in the public’s attitude toward the war.
Shafer and other guardsmen were charged with federal civil rights violations but were acquitted by a judge in 1974.
The events of that chaotic day at the campus in Kent are still not fully understood, and interest in the case had reignited after a 2010 analysis of an enhanced audio recording. The analysis concluded that someone may have ordered National Guard troops to prepare to fire on students during the campus protest.
The U.S. Justice Department said last year it wouldn’t reopen its investigation into the shooting, citing “insurmountable legal and evidentiary barriers.”
Shafer told the Record-Courier in 2007 that he fired on students but never heard an order.
“That’s all I can say on that,” Shafer told the newspaper. “That’s not to say there may not have been, but with all the racket and noise, I don’t know how anyone could have heard anything that day.”
Shafer was a former fire chief and city councilman in Ravenna. He worked as the city’s safety training compliance officer.
Kelly Engelhart, the city’s director of public service, said Friday in an interview that Shafer “took pride in wanting to do what was right for his community.”
“He was the epitome of a public steward,” said Engelhart, to whom Shafer reported.