Dayton Shooting: Gunman Kills 9 in Entertainment District – The New York Times

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Officials said the gunman killed nine people and injured 27 others in less than one minute in a busy entertainment district.CreditCreditMaddie McGarvey for The New York Times

The gunman who killed nine people, including his sister, early Sunday morning in Dayton, Ohio, wore a mask, body armor and hearing protection, and he possessed a high-capacity magazine capable of holding 100 rounds, the police said.

The gunman, identified as Connor Betts, 24, used what the police described as an “assault-style rifle” when he opened fire in a busy entertainment district in Dayton. A shotgun was also found in Mr. Betts’s car. Both guns were purchased legally, the police said.

The authorities said they still had not established a motive for the shooting. They said Mr. Betts arrived in the entertainment district Saturday evening with his sister, Megan K. Betts, 22, and another “companion.” Mr. Betts then split from the rest of the group for a period of time before opening fire, the authorities said.

Ms. Betts was not the first person killed in the assault, and it remained unclear whether Mr. Betts had sought to kill her, the police said. The companion was one of 27 people wounded in the attack, and the police said they had spoken to him.

[Read more about the victims of the Dayton shooting here.]

“We do not have substantial information to answer the question everyone wants to know: Why?” said Richard S. Biehl, Dayton’s police chief. “We are very, very early in this investigation.”

Chief Biehl, who said officers killed Mr. Betts within 30 seconds of his opening fire, added that the police had no evidence that racial bias had motivated Mr. Betts.

The attack in the popular Oregon district occurred less than 24 hours after 20 people were shot dead at a Walmart store in El Paso. Chief Biehl said there was no indication of a link between the two shootings.

Asked if the Dayton gunman was on the police’s radar, Mr. Biehl said: “Not at all. Not at all.”

[For the latest updates on the El Paso shooting, read our live briefing.]

Along with Ms. Betts, eight people were killed. They ranged in age from 25 to 57. The police identified them as:

  • Lois L. Oglesby, 27, a black female;

  • Saeed Saleh, 38, a black male;

  • Derrick R. Fudge, 57, a black male;

  • Logan Turner, 30, a white male;

  • Nicholas P. Cumer, 25, a white male;

  • Thomas J. McNichols, 25, a black male;

  • Beatrice N. Warren-Curtis, 36, a black female;

  • Monica E. Brickhouse, 39, a black female.

Dayton, which was hit by 14 tornadoes in May, reacted in grief and shock. “We have suffered two tragedies in Dayton this year, but one was avoidable” Mayor Nan Whaley wrote in a statement that cited one tally of mass shootings compiled by a group that tracks them. (Using a different definition, there have been 32 mass shootings this year.) “This same tragedy has been inflicted on our nation 250 times this year alone,” the mayor wrote. “When is enough, enough?”

Relatives came forward to remember the victims. Mr. McNichols was “a great father, a great brother — he was a protector,” said Jevin Lamar, a cousin, in a phone interview. Everyone called him Teejay, Mr. Lamar said, adding that he played kickball at family gatherings.

Mr. Lamar said he also knew a second victim, Ms. Oglesby, who he said had at least two children, including a new baby. “Now she is gone, and they are never going to see their mother again,” he said.

Mr. Lamar said the Oregon district, where the shooting took place, was considered the safest place in the city to party.

“If you go anywhere else in Dayton, you could be shot by gang members or robbed,” he said. “But that strip is safe, because it’s nearby colleges. It’s the nice part of downtown Dayton.”

James Williams, 50, who owns a pizzeria called Double Deuce, had been seated with friends on the patio at Ned Peppers, the bar at the scene of the shooting, as a line of people waiting to get into the bar snaked along the sidewalk. Then he and his friends moved to a bar across the street called Newcom’s Tavern. Suddenly, they heard shots.

“We heard the bang-bang-bang-bang,” Mr. Williams recalled in a telephone interview on Sunday. “Everybody started rushing to the back of the bar. Then the shots stopped, and people were screaming, ‘Help!’”

Mr. Williams and his friend Holly Redman rushed back to Ned Peppers, and found bodies lying all over the ground outside. Officers at the scene were asking for belts to use as tourniquets, Mr. Williams said, so he offered his.

Ms. Redman, 31, a paraprofessional who works with disabled children and is certified in CPR, began helping an effort to save a man who had been shot in the groin.

They did chest compressions. Ms. Redman said she began breathing into his mouth, felt for a pulse, and stripped off her shirt to use to try to stem his bleeding.

“He was gurgling,” she said on Sunday. “I looked him in the eye. I tried to talk to him. I said ‘Hang on, buddy.’” But he didn’t survive.

She said another man next to her screamed a woman’s name.

“They were like ‘She’s gone,’” Ms. Redman said. “And he was like, ‘No. Please, God. Tell me it’s not true.’”

There were bodies “everywhere you looked,” she said. “It was like World War II. I just started crying and looking at all these people. That could have been us. Three or four minutes, and that could have been us.”

Mr. Williams said he was told that the bouncer at Ned Peppers had prevented the gunman from entering the bar, which opened onto a crowded dance floor. In a Facebook message, Ned Peppers said the bouncer was sent to the hospital for shrapnel-related injuries but was expected to recover.

Mr. Williams, who also has a civilian job at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base outside the city, said he had watched the news of the El Paso mass shooting earlier on Saturday. At the time, he said, he thought it was “just another mass shooting that we hear about all the time, and you never think it’s going to hit home.”

He said he counted at least seven bodies, including one in the doorway of Ned Peppers, which had been handcuffed. That was the gunman, he said the police told him. A backpack lay nearby.

“You just wouldn’t believe the people who have pulled together and tried to save these people, and there wasn’t any saving,” Mr. Williams said. “Most of them were probably dead.”

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CreditLuke Sharrett for The New York Times

The shooting began at 1:07 a.m. on East Fifth Street in the city’s Oregon entertainment district, which was bustling with more than one thousand late-night revelers enjoying a warm summer evening, Mayor Whaley said. Uniformed officers on routine patrol in the area responded, shooting and killing the gunman within one minute of his first gunshots, she said.

Mr. Betts appeared ready to exact an even higher toll. He was outfitted with a tactical vest, hearing protection, carried a rifle with .223-caliber ammunition and a high-capacity magazine that could hold up to 100 rounds. He had a shotgun in his car that was not used in the attack.

The police played a video recording of officers fatally shooting Mr. Betts and another tape in which dozens of gunshots could be heard as frightened people ran down a street.

The police said Mr. Betts had been trying to enter a crowded bar, Ned Peppers, when officers fatally shot him. Had he succeeded in getting inside the bar, Mr. Biehl, the police chief, said there would have been far more deaths.”

“Had this individual made it through the doorway of Ned Peppers with that level of weaponry, there would have been a catastrophic injury and loss of life, so stopping him before he got inside there — you saw all those people were running in there — was essential,” Mr. Biehl said.

No manifesto or social media presence has been found so far for Mr. Betts.

The police said they are treating Mr. Betts’ family like other victims given that they have lost their daughter.

Theo Gainey, 25, who lived for 10 years down the block from the Bettses and was a year ahead of Connor Betts in school, remembered him as a “bit of an outcast,” ostracized in large part because of threats he made at school that got him into serious trouble.

“He got arrested on the school bus” for the threats, said Mr. Gainey, who added that he was on the bus himself when it happened. He recalled Mr. Betts being a freshman or sophomore at the time. Mr. Gainey did not remember the specifics of the threats but said that Mr. Betts had to leave school for the rest of that year. When he returned, “the threat thing followed him, and people didn’t want to hang out with him.”

BELLBROOK, Ohio — The police searched a house in a quiet suburb southeast of Dayton early Sunday morning, where the man identified by the officials as the gunman lived with his parents.

The house is on a cul-de-sac that had been blocked on Sunday with temporary barriers, a strange sight in a neighborhood of otherwise peaceful homes of freshly mowed lawns and people doing yard work.

“Just like everybody else in the world, you don’t expect it to be a few blocks from your place,” said Brian Harris, who was standing up the street with his wife, Diane; they own a machine shop. “This is one of the safest places,” Ms. Harris said.

Nikki Peralli, 25, remembered the suspected gunman, Mr. Betts, only as “tall, skinny and brown-haired.”

Brad Howard, 25, said he had known Mr. Betts since before kindergarten and rode the bus with him to school for years, talking about rock bands like the Red Hot Chili Peppers.

Mr. Howard added, “Obviously, if you’re going to go and make an action like that — if you’re going to do that — there’s clearly something that had caused that in his mind.”

He had not talked with Mr. Betts for months, he said. “I had a bunch of missed calls, I opened my phone,” he said. “It was just another one of those things, just a kick in the teeth.”

Cassandra Lopez, 23, said she first thought the gunshots were part of the music.

She and five of her friends were at Ned Peppers for a “normal Saturday night” when they heard what she said were about 25 shots.

“I told my friend I was going to go to the back patio because I needed some air,” Ms. Lopez said Sunday in a telephone interview. “It was really hot in there. As I was walking towards the back, guns just started going off like crazy.”

“The next thing I knew, bodies were hitting the floor,” she added. “People were screaming and crying. I was on the floor, I couldn’t get up, I got trampled.”

In all, Ms. Lopez said she was on the floor for roughly two minutes, until someone helped her up and escorted her to safety. She told the police: “We just couldn’t get up. Too many people. Shoes everywhere.”

Ms. Lopez said she was injured in the chaos, but had not yet gone to the hospital to seek treatment. “I have a couple of pieces of glass that’s stuck in my foot,” she said. “Little shards. I’m banged up all over. My ribs are bruised, my knees are bruised. I lost my shoes, my clothes are ruined.”

She said none of her friends were seriously injured. The shooting took place outside the bar.

“It’s crazy, we can’t even go to a bar and have a drink without something like this happening,” she said.

Mayor Whaley said that the mayors of some 50 cities around the nation had contacted her. “Sadly, this isn’t something only the city of Dayton has experienced,” she said. “It’s sad to me that now Dayton is one of these communities as well.”

Ms. Whaley said that victims, including one who is in critical condition and several who were in serious condition, were receiving treatment at local hospitals.

An employee at Ned Peppers, a bar on the street, wrote in a post on Instagram that “all of our staff is safe and our hearts go out to everyone involved as we gather information.”

By The New York Times

It was the latest tragedy in one of the worst weeks in memory for gun violence in the United States. The shooting came less than a day after the El Paso massacre. Last week, a gunman killed three people and wounded 13 others in a shooting at a garlic festival in Gilroy, Calif.

In all, there have been at least 32 mass shootings, defined as three or more killings in a single episode, in the United States this year.

On Twitter, most of the trending topics — the subjects talked about the most — were about gun violence. At one point Sunday morning, so many people used the phrase “another shooting” it became one of the nation’s top 10 topics.

Rod Rosenstein, the former deputy attorney general, wrote on Twitter late Saturday that “killing random civilians to spread a political message is terrorism.”

“F.B.I. classifies it as domestic terrorism, but ‘white terrorism’ is more precise,” Mr. Rosenstein said on Twitter. “Many of the killers are lone-wolf losers indoctrinated to hate through the internet, just like Islamic terrorists.”

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CreditJohn Minchillo/Associated Press

President Trump weighed in on both of the weekend’s mass shootings early Sunday, writing on Twitter, “God bless the people of El Paso Texas. God bless the people of Dayton, Ohio.”

In a second post, he wrote: “The F.B.I., local and state law enforcement are working together in El Paso and in Dayton, Ohio. Information is rapidly being accumulated in Dayton.” He added: “Law enforcement was very rapid in both instances. Updates will be given throughout the day!”

Gov. Mike DeWine of Ohio released a statement on Sunday expressing grief.

“Fran and I are absolutely heartbroken over the horrible attack that occurred this morning in Dayton,” he said, referring to his wife. “We join those across Ohio and this country in offering our prayers to victims and their families.”

Campbell Robertson, Mitch Smith, Nicholas Bogel-Burroughs, Derrick Bryson Taylor and Daniel Victor contributed reporting.