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9 dead in shooting, but police chief says toll could have been ‘catastrophic’

Published: Sunday, August 04, 2019 @ 1:19 AM
Updated: Monday, August 05, 2019 @ 8:40 AM
By: Breaking News Staff, Katie Wedell - Staff Writer

In less than 60 seconds, a gunman killed nine people early Sunday and injured 32 more in a mass shooting near Ned Peppers Bar on East Fifth Street in Dayton’s historic Oregon District.

>> What to know this morning in aftermath of deadly shootings

In the minutes and hours that have passed since, authorities have been working to learn more about the suspected gunman and how Sunday’s tragic event unfolded.

>> Oregon District mass shooting: What we have learned about suspect Connor Betts

>> TUNE IN: WHIO Radio will remain in wall-to-wall coverage with WHIO-TV.

Meanwhile, the community and state and local leaders express gratitude to the first responders and condolences to the victims’ family and friends for the tragic loss. The community has gathered in prayer and remembrance, and the Oregon District is adorned with memorials for the victims.

>> NEW THIS MORNING: Memorials all that are left after tragic shooting

>> Oregon District mass shooting: What we have learned about the victims

“This is a Miami Valley tragedy,” Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine said at a press conference Sunday after touring the crime scene. Although the shooting happened in downtown Dayton, the victims were from all corners of the region. The historic district — home to restaurants, bars and shops — is one of Dayton’s crown jewels and draws visitors from all over.

>> VIDEO: These 6 officers stopped suspect at door of Ned Pepper’s

“To know someone would target a place so many of us go to as a place of community and love tears my heart apart,” said district resident Allie Swanson. “We all know a victim. We all know someone who is grieving, because Dayton is grieving.”

WHAT WE KNOW NOW

Wearing a mask and bullet-proof vest, police say 24-year-old Connor Betts killed one person in an alley next to Blind Bob’s bar then turned right onto East Fifth Street and opened fire on the crowd of entertainment district patrons, killing eight more people and wounding 32 before police officers shot and killed him.

Among the victims was the gunman’s sister Megan Betts, 22, who arrived at the Oregon District with him.

The others killed were: Monica Brickhouse, 39; Nicholas Cumer, 25; Derrick Fudge, 57; Thomas McNichols, 25; Lois Oglesby, 27; Saheed Saleh, 38; Logan Turner, 30; and Beatrice Warren Curtis, 36.

>> Dayton shooter obsessed with killing, Bellbrook classmates say

The shooting happened just after 1 a.m. when the popular district was full of bar goers, many enjoying the warm evening on outdoor patios along the street. Surveillance videos show friends exchanging hugs and people chatting on the sidewalk in the moments before the first shots were fired.

Six Dayton police officers engaged the active shooter in the Oregon District within 20 seconds and had him down within 30 seconds of the first shots being fired, Dayton Police Chief Richard Biehl said during a 4 p.m. news conference. 

>> MORE: PHOTOS: Scenes from the Oregon District shooting 

MORE: Hotlines, meeting site set for families of victims

Witnesses described the chaos of people running, many so fast their shoes came off, and the loud blasts from the .223-caliber rifle Betts fired.

“Gunshots. Just loud gunshots everywhere. You couldn’t hear anything but that. Everybody screaming and running and just trying to get away,” said Robert Woodruff of Dayton.

He said he was five to 10 feet away from shooter and began running as soon as he heard the shots.

“The direction I was running from a guy got shot in the head and fell in front of me,” he said. “I tried to run the other way and when I did, my phone and my keys flew out of my pocket and flew over somebody’s car. I ran the other way and bullets and people started dropping the other way. I started crawling the other way and dead people start falling that way. I thought I was about to die until the officer was standing over the top of me he started shooting at the guy.”

>>RELATED: Democratic leader calls for U.S. Senate to deal with gun violence

Investigators said it is too early to speculate on a motive. An individual who accompanied the Betts siblings to the Oregon District was injured but survived and had initial conversations with police, Biehl said.

The violence in Dayton came on the heels of a mass shooting at an El Paso, Texas, shopping center that left 20 people dead on Saturday. The two incidents prompted some lawmakers to immediately call for action on gun control, including a mandatory background check legislation pending in the House, while others including DeWine said time is needed to learn all the facts and then determine what lessons and action might emerge from the tragedy.

Many in the city chose to focus on grieving Sunday, gathering for an afternoon prayer vigil at Levitt Pavilion and an evening candlelight vigil on East Fifth Street. In a city still reeling from a massive tornado outbreak on Memorial Day, people said this blow feels especially devastating.

“Dayton has been through more than we ever could have imagined this year,” Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley said. “Our community has shown incredible resilience in the face of these tragedies, and I’m sure Dayton will rise to this challenge as we always have.”

The tornadoes came two days after a Ku Klux Klan-affiliated group brought nine people to Courthouse Square for a rally that attracted hundreds of others to counter the demonstration. The event drew national attention to the city and praise for how the safety and security measures were handled.

Whaley, along with DeWine and numerous other local, state and national leaders gave the same praise to the city’s first responders Sunday. The quick action of Dayton police officers saved untold numbers, DeWine said.

Betts was shot just outside the door to Ned Peppers bar, as he was trying to gain entry. Biehl said if he had gotten inside the bar with the caliber weapon he was carrying there would have been “catastrophic” casualties.  Six officers including one veteran sergeant with a rifle fired their weapons, according to Biehl.

“If the Dayton police had not gotten to the shooter in under a minute, hundreds of people in the Oregon District would be dead today,” Whaley said.

The officers involved in the incident were identified as Sgt. William C. Knight, a 22-year Dayton police veteran; and officers Jeremy Campbell, a two-year veteran and three-year veterans Vincent Carter, Ryan Nabel and David Denlinger. They are on administrative leave, which is standard procedure following such incidents.

Ohio leaders, U.S. Sens. Sherrod Brown and Rob Portman and U.S. Rep. Mike Turner addressed the media during the city’s 3 p.m. news conference. 

All three praised first responders for saving lives and the community for resiliency and coming together over the last few months. 

Lawmakers were taken to the scene of the shooting in the Oregon District before appearing in the 3 p.m. conference. 

“This is an unbelievable amount of evil,” Turner said. 

Both Turner and Brown called for Congress to act and for bipartisan legislation to be drafted to prevent more mass shootings. 

“Congress needs to do something,” Brown said. 

“This requires a comprehensive approach,” Portman said, regarding preventing future shootings. 

>> President Trump expected to make statement on shootings today

Whaley said multiple mayors from other communities that have experienced mass shootings have reached out to her. 

Several items lost during the shooting have been recovered by Dayton police and will be available for pickup starting at 10 a.m. Monday at the Dayton police headquarters at 335 W. Third St. 

DAYTON SHOOTING: Doorbell camera records response to save lives

“I’m still just completely amazed with the heroic actions of our police department,” Whaley said. 

Officials are working to set up blood donation centers and more details will be released later today. 

>>RELATED: Oregon District businesses issue response to deadly attack

Whaley emphasized the Oregon District is safe and is one of the safest spots in the region. 

“If the Dayton police had not gotten to the shooter in under a minute, hundreds of people in the Oregon District would be dead today,” Whaley said.

“This is the 250th mass shooting in America,” she said. “It’s sad that it’s in the city of Dayton.”

She called the shooting “a terrible day for Dayton.”

“He tried to go into the bar but did not make it through the door. Someone took the gun from him and he got shot and is dead. 

“There are at least eight people dead right by the picnic table where I was on the street. A bunch of people taken to the hospital. I don’t know how any ... this place is a disaster.” 

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