By Bob Uphues
A 70-year-old Riverside man died Sept. 4 after a handrail gave way as he painted a stairwell, causing him to fall more than 20 feet from the rear second-floor landing of an apartment building in downtown Riverside.
Riverside police identified the deceased as Randall Schirmer, who was a tenant at the Tower Apartments, 39 Forest Ave.
According to police, an employee of the property management company called 911 at about 8:45 a.m. after she observed Schirmer lying on the concrete at the bottom of the stairwell.
Paramedics arrived and found Schirmer unconscious and unresponsive. He was pronounced dead at 8:52 a.m.
Police reported that the second-floor landing railing was broken and that there was a puddle of brown paint on the landing itself.
The building is owned by a real estate trust, although police reported speaking with Ronald Kafka, whom they identified in their report as the owner. Kafka through the years has consistently denied owning the building, saying he works as an agent or consultant to the trust.
A call to the management company seeking comment was not immediately returned.
According to the police report, investigators asked Kafka if Schirmer had been hired to paint the stairwell. Kafka denied Schirmer had been hired to do the work, police said.
While Schirmer had been hired to do odd jobs around the building in the past, Kafka told police, according to the incident report, he was painting the stairwell on his own.
A village building inspector visited the property in the wake of Schirmer's death and ordered the stairwell closed until it could be inspected by a structural engineer and repaired.
"We don't want anyone using that area until proper repairs are made," said Sonya Abt, the village's community development director. "It needs to be addressed in short order, and it's not a throw-up-a-new-handrail solution."
Police Chief Thomas Weitzel said detectives continue to investigate the incident.