A few stuffed animals and balloons tacked to the boarded-up front window of the home on Grand Avenue where Montelle Taylor lived are an impromptu memorial for the 17-year-old youth who died of gunshot wounds.
In the first 10 days of June, Toledo police have responded to 15 shootings, none of which, until early Friday morning, was life-threatening.
Around 1:20 a.m., Montelle Taylor, a 17-year-old youth from the central city, was shot about half a mile from his Grand Avenue home.
Police found him bleeding, lying in the street on Auburn Avenue near West Bancroft Street. The youth was alert and talking, but later died from his injuries at Toledo Hospital.
Area residents say they heard four or five gunshots; police said Montelle was shot twice.
Police have not named any suspects and said there was no evidence of gang involvement.
With all of the shootings, Toledo police Chief Mike Navarre has put extra officers on the streets.
“We will utilize the extra officers ... to try to identify who these shooters are and hopefully get some guns off the street,” he said.
“There’s a lot of lead flying around out there.”
HOMICIDE REPORT: Interactive on Toledo-area killings
In most of this month’s incidents, the victims have known the perpetrator, the chief said.
“I believe there are a lot more guns on the streets today and some of the problems we are having are a result of that,” Chief Navarre said.
“How many of these guns are being legally possessed versus illegally? I don’t know. I suspect most of them are illegally possessed.”
Weapons recovered from a crime are tested for ballistics to determine if they were used in other crimes, the chief said, and kept in storage until it’s determined they no longer have value as evidence or in court.
Once that’s determined, confiscated weapons are melted down to permanently remove them from the street, he said.
Montelle’s death marks the second homicide this week and the seventh slaying in Toledo this year — at this time in 2010, there were 12 murders.
“Our homicide numbers are very low through the first 5½ months of the year,” Chief Navarre said.
On Wednesday, Jennifer Molnar, 31, was found severely beaten in the basement of an East Toledo home. The Lucas County Coroner’s Office on Thursday ruled her death a homicide.
Montelle “was a good kid and he was trying his best to be friends,” said Cenia Prior who lives a few houses down from where Montelle lived.
Ms. Prior said Montelle lived there with his father, Michael Taylor, Sr.
No one was at the home Friday. A small memorial of stuffed animals and three red balloons were attached to the front window.
All of the windows and the back door of the small white home were boarded up.
Ms. Prior said Michael Taylor III and Mr. Smith were friends.
Taylor turned himself in to police the next day.
His case is scheduled for a pretrial hearing in Lucas County Common Pleas Court on Sept. 6.
Since the slaying of Mr. Smith, Montelle has been ostracized by some in the neighborhood, she said.
“He just wanted to belong and be accepted,” Ms. Prior said. “He just wanted to belong. He felt like an outsider.”
Ms. Prior said she saw Montelle riding his bike up and down the street around 8:30 p.m. Thursday. She told him to stay inside.
“He was bored. He didn’t have anybody,” she said, noting she believed his father lived elsewhere in town.
News of the slaying spread quickly. Ms. Prior was asleep when her daughter’s boyfriend woke her up.
She went up and down the street telling neighbors what happened. She fell asleep crying.
Darrin Smith’s father, Darrin Smith, Sr., still lives on Grand.
He never blamed Montelle for what happened — in fact, Montelle spoke to Mr. Smith frequently and hung a T-shirt on the tree at the younger Smith’s memorial.
“It’s incredible,” Mr. Smith said of all the shootings. He was holding the hand of his 3-year-old son, Tayshaun Smith. “I miss my son. You don’t know what I’m going through … We have got to learn to love each other. Even if you don’t love them, at least don’t hate them …
“I would have taken that bullet for my son a million times over,” he said.
Of the 15 shootings this month, most of the victims have been men in their 20s. Three, including Montelle, were teenagers.
Chief Navarre said the shootings do not appear to be related.
“Every year as we enter the summer months and the weather starts to get warmer, we see an increase in activity,” Chief Navarre said. “Whether or not this year is any different than in years prior, I can’t say that with certainty, but in the last couple weeks we have had an unusually high number of shooting incidents.”
Montelle would have turned 18 in less than one month. A neighbor said he had dropped out of Scott High School.
Ms. Prior said Montelle’s main support came from his grandmother, who died a few years ago.
“He was caught up,” she said. “He didn’t know which way to go.”
He just wanted a better life, she added.
Ms. Prior, who started the younger Smith’s memorial outside his home and two memorials for Montelle — one at the home and one on Auburn — said she is sick of decorating the neighborhood for the slain.
She sees the younger Smith’s memorial every time she opens her front door. It brings back memories of that night — hearing the shot ring out, people screaming, Darrin lying on the ground bleeding, rain falling.
Just then, a loud noise cut through the air.
“That’s a gunshot,” a woman sitting on a stoop said.
Ms. Prior didn’t even flinch.
Staff writer Jim Sielicki contributed to this report.
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