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Call and Post

The Cooler the Bandits the better the documentary

Call and Post hosts the coolest bandits ever

Felicia Haney | 3/19/2014, noon
The Cooler Bandits

Cleveland International Film Festival

By FELICIA C. HANEY

Staff Reporter

Who doesn’t remember the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles? Certainly the restaurant workers they held at gunpoint do, vividly, even though it happened nearly 25 years ago. Forced in a freezer with your co-workers, frantic trying to figure out if someone will find you before it’s too late while teens with hot hands take petty cash and empty the register drawers on the other side of the fridge you’re imprisoned in. Sound like a cool story? Maybe even an episode of an ‘80s sitcom? I mean, who gets robbed by TMNT? Only in the movies, right? Well… kinda.

The Cooler Bandits was the name given to real-life Akron teens – Frankie Porter, Donovan Harris, Richard “Poochie” Roderick and Charlie Kelly – who robbed 17 restaurants throughout four counties back in 1991 donning Ninja Turtles masks who forced their victims into coolers before making off with the cash. It’s also the title of Cuyahoga Falls native John Lucas’ new documentary following the four men on their road to redemption after being brutally punished with stiff prison sentences.

The film will be shown during this year’s 38th annual Cleveland International Film Festival with a special film forum featuring the director and the film’s subjects at 4:45 p.m. Thursday, March 27 at Akron-Summit County Library, 60 South High Street in Akron, 44326.

In the day and age where admitted murderers of 17-year-old kids roam freely in Florida as celebrities, Black men in Akron are serving 20-plus years on 100-plus year sentences over dumb, teenage mistakes that left no one hurt in the process. Lucas, a former Big Brother to Charlie decided to follow-up with the prison-raised, now grown men to tell their story that had everyone wondering, “how does that add up?” Well, let’s do the math…

“Victim of a single-parent household, born in a mouse hole…

I had work fiends purchased, it was clear

I was out there sellin’ hope for despair” – Jay-Z, “Diamond is Forever”

Akron, 1991. Right in the height of the crack epidemic, with closing rubber plants and single-parent homes were the new normal. Teenage boys, tired of seeing their mothers work themselves to death –which caused them to barely see them at all – found solace in a dream sold to them as a better way of life… hustling. Schoolboys yelling pass me the rock on the basketball court were replaced with dope boys who heard fiends say the same thing, only with green in their hands for a fair exchange, no robbery.

“Don't you know cops' whole purpose is to lock us down? And throw away the key

But without this drug sh!t your kids ain't got no way to eat

We still try to keep Mom...smilin'...

Cuz when the teeth stop showin' and the stomach start growlin'

Then the heat start flowin’… If you from the hood I know you feel me...

If a sneak start leanin' and the heat stop workin'

Then my heat start workin' I'm-a rob me a person…