August 4, 2019 - 2:45 am
Updated August 4, 2019 - 7:15 pm
DAYTON, Ohio — A gunman in body armor opened fire early Sunday in a popular entertainment district in Dayton, Ohio, killing nine people, including his sister, and wounded dozens of others before he was quickly slain by police, city officials said.
Connor Betts, 24, was armed with a .223-caliber rifle with magazines capable of holding at least 100 rounds of ammunition and was gunned down about 30 seconds after his rampage began about 1 a.m. in the historic Oregon District, said Police Chief Richard Biehl.
After squeezing off dozens of shots, he was killed at an entrance to a bar where people were taking cover, Biehl said, adding that had Betts gotten inside, the result would have been “catastrophic.”
Police have not identified a motive in what was the second U.S. mass shooting in less than 24 hours.
His 22-year-old sister Megan, the youngest of the dead, were all killed in the same area, police said. The other men and women who were killed ranged in age from 25 to 57.
The gunman was white and six of the nine killed were black, police said. Although they’ll investigate the possibility of a hate crime, they said the quickness of the rampage made any discrimination in the shooting seem unlikely.
Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley said if the police had not responded so quickly, “hundreds of people in the Oregon District could be dead today.”
#OregonDistrict #update Mayor Whaley: Number of wounded is 27 who've been treated at local hospitals for various injuries.
We are working with the blood bank to set up donation opportunities. There will be a vigil tonight at 8pm, location TBA.
— Dayton Police Dept. (@DaytonPolice) August 4, 2019
Neighbors and classmates of the Betts were surprised that he was at the center of the shooting.
A neighbor whose property is near Connor Betts’ family home says he often saw the 24-year-old doing everyday activities like walking the dog or mowing the lawn. Stephen Cournoyer says Betts “seemed like a good kid,” but “obviously he had an issue.”
Brad Howard, a longtime classmate of Betts, was shocked. He says “the Connor Betts that I knew was a nice kid.”
The Oregon District is a historic neighborhood that Lt. Col. Matt Carper described as “a safe part of downtown,” home to entertainment options, including bars, restaurants and theaters.
At least 26 others are being treated at area hospitals, though no details about their conditions have been released.
Miami Valley Hospital spokeswoman Terrea Little said the hospital had received 16 victims, but she couldn’t confirm their conditions. Kettering Health Network spokeswoman Elizabeth Long said multiple victims from a shooting had been brought to system hospitals, but she didn’t have details on how many.
Police identified the other dead as Monica Brickhouse, 39; Nicholas Cumer, 25; Derrick Fudge, 57; Thomas McNichols, 25; Lois Oglesby, 27; Saeed Saleh, 38; Logan Turner, 30; and Beatrice N. Warren-Curtis, 36.
Derasha Merrett told the Dayton Daily News that she was a cousin and friend of Lois Oglesby. Merrett says she was up feeding her own newborn early Sunday morning when she learned Oglesby died in the shooting.
She remembered Oglesby as a “wonderful mother, a wonderful person.”
Merrett says her cousin was in nursing school and looking forward to a career that would make the most of her love for children.
A release from Father Malachi Van Tassell says Nicholas Cumer was a graduate student in the master of cancer care program at Saint Francis University. Van Tassell says Cumer had been in Dayton as part of an internship program.
He described Cumer as dedicated to caring for others. He says Cumer was among the students recognized for completing more than 100 hours of service. He also says Cumer was a graduate assistant with the university marching band.
He says a mass in Cumer’s memory will be arranged on campus this week.
Donna Johnson tells the Dayton Daily News that Thomas McNichols was tall, well-loved and “like a big kid.”
She says McNichols used to take family members to the movies when big films hit theaters.
McNichols, a 25-year-old father of four, was living with Johnson in Dayton.
The outlet reports the two ate licorice together after he got off work at a factory Saturday before he and a cousin left to go to a popular entertainment district.
Anthony Reynolds says he and his friends were leaving a bar in the Oregon District around 1 a.m. Sunday when they heard the first gunshot.
He says the gunfire was “rapid” after that and “people were just falling.”
The 31-year-old Reynolds says he got a glimpse of the shooter, who he says was dressed in all black and carrying a large gun.
Nikita Papillon, 23, was across the street at Newcom’s Tavern when the shooting started. She said she saw a girl she had talked to earlier lying outside Ned Peppers Bar.
“She had told me she liked my outfit and thought I was cute, and I told her I liked her outfit and I thought she was cute,” Papillon said. She herself had been to Ned Peppers the night before, describing it as the kind of place “where you don’t have to worry about someone shooting up the place.”
“People my age, we don’t think something like this is going to happen,” she said. “And when it happens, words can’t describe it.”
Tianycia Leonard, 28, was in the back, smoking, at Newcom’s. She heard “loud thumps” that she initially thought was people pounding on a dumpster.
“It was so noisy, but then you could tell it was gunshots and there was a lot of rounds,” Leonard said.
James Williams who also witnessed the scene, posted on his Facebook page, “(It) happened right in front of the patio where I was sitting, in front of Neds. The guy in front of Ned Peppers door is the active shooter. He tried to go into the bar but did not make it through the door.”
Staff of an Oregon District bar called Ned Peppers said in a Facebook post that they were left shaken and confused by the shooting. The bar said a bouncer was treated for shrapnel wounds.
President Donald Trump has been briefed on the shooting and praised law enforcement’s speedy response in a tweet Sunday morning.
Gov. Mike DeWine issued his own statement before 7 a.m., announcing that he’s ordered flags in Ohio remain at half-staff and offered assistance to Whaley.
“Fran and I are absolutely heartbroken over the horrible attack that occurred this morning in Dayton, the statement said. “We join those across Ohio and this country in offering our prayers to victims and their families.”
Democratic U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown of Ohio says “thoughts and prayers are not enough” after a shooter killed nine people and wounded dozens more before he was killed by police in Dayton.
In a statement Sunday, Brown says he is angry that state and national lawmakers won’t pass more gun safety laws.
As Ohio wakes up this morning to the news of this horrific attack, Connie and I are filled with sadness for the victims and their families and gratitude for the police officers who responded to the scene and the medical professionals caring for the injured.
— Sherrod Brown (@SenSherrodBrown) August 4, 2019
Republican Sen. Rob Portman says he saw workers cleaning blood off the sidewalks when he visited the scene in Dayton’s Oregon District. He says it’s an unspeakable tragedy and the discussion needs to include not just policy changes, but issues such as mental health supports.
Several proposals have been introduced in the GOP-led Legislature this session that would tighten requirements on firearms sales, transfers and storage. A gun safety group is also pushing to change state law to require background checks on nearly all guns sales.
The shooting in Dayton comes after the area was heavily damaged when tornadoes swept through western Ohio in late May, destroying or damaging hundreds of homes and businesses.
“Dayton has been through a lot already this year, and I continue to be amazed by the grit and resiliency of our community,” Whaley said.
The FBI is assisting with the investigation. A family assistance center was set up at the Dayton Convention Center.
#OregonDistrict #update If you have information on the shooting, please call 937-225-6217.
Our family assistance center is up and running at the Dayton Convention Center, you can come here personally or call 937-333-8430
— Dayton Police Dept. (@DaytonPolice) August 4, 2019
The Ohio shooting came hours after a young man opened fire in a crowded El Paso, Texas, shopping area, leaving 20 dead and more than two dozen injured. Just days before, on July 28, a 19-year-old shot and killed three people, including two children, at Northern California’s Gilroy Garlic Festival.
Sunday’s shooting in Dayton is the 22nd mass killing of 2019 in the U.S., according to the AP/USA Today/Northeastern University mass murder database that tracks homicides where four or more people were killed — not including the offender. The 20 mass killings in the U.S. in 2019 that preceded this weekend claimed 96 lives.
Whaley said the Oregon District has reopened, and a vigil is planned Sunday evening.