With more Toledo police street patrols being redeployed to the central city in an attempt to control gang violence, The Blade wants to know if police response times drop in other parts of Toledo. Call us at 419-724-6050 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org with examples of slow police responses.
The most violent short-term period in recent history prompted Toledo police Chief Derrick Diggs to reassign officers on Wednesday, sending additional patrols into neighborhoods burdened with gang activity to enforce a "zero-tolerance" policy.
The chief declined to say how many officers would be redeployed but said that officers were already moved around and the special assignment will continue as long as necessary to quell violence and shootings.
The reassignment will affect normal patrols, but the chief called the response to the violence "our number one priority."
The stretch of gun violence started about 9 p.m. Tuesday when 24-year-old Dustin Matney was shot in the 1200 block of Colburn Street in South Toledo. Gunfire continued through the early morning hours and into the afternoon, with eight more people being shot, two of them killed.
Of the chief's plan, at-large Councilman Rob Ludeman said, "I trust the chief to make good decisions. He's made good decisions since I've known him and since he's been chief. ... When you have a burst of violent crime like this, it has to be addressed aggressively and it sounds like that's what he plans on doing."
Mr. Ludeman said Mayor Michael Bell needs to call on churches, ministers, and other "responsible" community members "to say we're not going to tolerate it."
In Toledo this year, there have been 17 homicides, compared to 12 at the same time in 2011. There have been a total of 96 shootings since Jan. 1, only 25 shy of the total shootings in 2010. In 2011, shootings soared to 210.
"Of course we're not happy with the numbers, of course we'd like them to be lower," said Deputy Mayor Shirley Green, the city's public safety director.
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Chief Diggs said some of the shootings were related and some of them were gang-related, but he declined to get into specifics of each incident citing ongoing inquiries.
He said detectives were working in teams to investigate; as of Wednesday night, no warrants had been issued, and no suspects had been arrested.
The second floor of the downtown Safety Building, which houses the crimes-against-persons section, was closed for the day to the media Wednesday. Chief Diggs said he did not know why.
"We've been very busy here," he said in response.
The violence comes just two months after police and community members announced a massive strategy aimed at reducing gang violence, the Toledo Community Initiative to Reduce Violence.
The chief said he believes the strategy will be effective in slowing the violence.
"The things that led up to the gangs didn't happen overnight; it happened years ago," the chief said. "It's not going to change overnight. This is going to take time."
The Rev. John Jones who is working with the community aspect of the initiative, said "the community has to come together and say 'I love this city and I want to make it better, I want to help.' "
"One shooting, one murder, that's not acceptable," Mr. Jones continued. " ... If somebody knows somebody doing the shooting, if you know who did it, we need the community to step up."
City Councilman D. Michael Collins, chairman of the safety committee, said he would be in favor of police officers taking on 10-hour shifts, giving officers more overtime, and increasing the number of man hours on the street.
Chief Diggs said the department is in the process of planning for two more police classes -- one to start in September and another in 2013 -- but they cannot hire officers who might have been laid off from other departments in the meantime.
"There are too many liability issues with just throwing officers onto the streets," the chief said. The department employs 575 sworn personnel, Ms. Green said.
Homicides, officials said on Wednesday, are not suppressable crimes.
In separate shootings Wednesday morning, Antwoine Huggins, 24, and Omar Sutton, 19, were both killed.
Huggins was shot once in the back, said Lucas County Deputy Coroner Dr. Maneesha Pandey.
She could not say what the distance was between the shooter and victim, but knew "it was not close."
The victim was found in front of an apartment building at 346 Mettler St. at 1:12 a.m.
Hours later, blood still stained the concrete in front of the building and packaging from gauze and other medical supplies littered the sidewalk.
Ashley Brooks, 25, who lives next to the building, said she had known Huggins since the two were in junior high school.
She was sitting outside her home Wednesday morning when she heard gunshots followed by arguing, pounding on the door, a man pleading, "somebody help me," and more pounding.
"I was scared to move," she said.
Later, after seeing a picture of the victim and recognizing her longtime friend, she put her hands on top of her head and said over and over, "Oh my gosh, that was him."
"I couldn't do nothing but cry," she said. "I was sitting right here. I felt so helpless."
At 2:14 a.m., gunfire erupted in the parking lot of Remy's Gentlemen's Club, 707 Matzinger Rd. Between 20 to 25 shots were fired, with Keshawn Jennings, James Moore, Sean Johnson, and Terrill Bennett being shot, suffering nonlife threatening injuries, police said.
It was about that same time that Sutton showed up at Mercy St. Vincent Medical Center with about 150 people connected to the incident at Remy's, said hospital spokesman Sarah Bednarski.
Ms. Bednarski said Sutton caused a disturbance in the emergency room and was escorted out of the building by a public safety officer.
A short time later, at 3:35 a.m., Sutton was found shot in the chest at Collingwood Boulevard and West Bancroft Street and was taken in a private vehicle to Mercy St. Vincent.
Dr. Diane Scala-Barnett, Lucas County deputy coroner, said the victim died of a single gunshot wound that went through his chest, hitting his left upper lung, and then lodging in his left arm.
Sutton's sisters, Sparkle Braswell, 26, and Precious Braswell, 29, said their brother -- who had been shot at least three other times and, about a month ago, was attacked -- was outgoing and always smiling.
Sutton was affiliated with the Manor Boys, a gang that is based in Moody Manor on Kent Street in the central city, officials said.
Bonita Washington, 44, who lives in the complex and knew Sutton since he was a baby, said she's sick of the violence in the place she's called home since 2007. "Our youths are killing each other for no reason."
"My heart is heavy right now," Ms. Washington said. "People say you die how you live, and that might be true, but who are you to play God?"
The violence didn't end there. In broad daylight Wednesday afternoon, Toledo police were called to two nonfatal shootings. The first was reported at 12:21 p.m. in the 600 block of Fernwood Avenue near a day-care center where three children were playing in the backyard.
Police on scene originally thought no one was shot but before leaving the scene learned that Patrick Cortez showed up at Toledo Hospital with a gunshot wound in the left leg.
At about 5 p.m., Terrell Anderson, 28, was shot in the leg near his residence on Ottawa Drive near Rosedale Avenue.
Mr. Anderson was taken by private vehicle to Toledo Hospital, authorities said.
Authorities had little suspect information on the shooting on Wednesday night.
On Colburn Street, where Matney was shot Tuesday night, Mark Wilson, Jr., 25, surveyed the damage to his new home sustained after someone intentionally set the neighboring property, 1232 Colburn, on fire.
Toledo police Sgt. Joe Heffernan said there is not enough evidence to charge anyone with the arson yet, but officials believe the fire is possible retaliation for the shooting, which happened hours before the fire right outside the house.
Crews arrived at the fire at 4:31 a.m. and found the entire house in flames. It was razed Wednesday morning; the two homes on either side owned by Wilson, Jr., and Mark Wilson, Sr. -- 1230 and 1236 Colburn -- had exterior damage, said Toledo fire Lt. Matthew Hertzfeld.
Staff writer Nolan Rosenkrans contributed to this report.
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