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Police & Fire

January already deadliest in years

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    Family and friends gather near candles that spell, "DGOTT" at a vigil organized Wednesday, January 24, 2018, in remembrance of DeShawn Gott, 21, who was fatally shot near the intersection of Woodland Ave. and City Park Tuesday in west Toledo. About 100 people turned out to pray together at the vigil.

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    A candle is lit at a vigil organized Wednesday, January 24, 2018, in remembrance of DeShawn Gott, 21, who was fatally shot near the intersection of Woodland Ave. and City Park Tuesday in west Toledo.

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    Danaja Gott, 18, who described herself as, "DeShawn's favorite sister," lights a candle in his memory at a vigil organized Wednesday, January 24, 2018. DeShawn was fatally shot near the intersection of Woodland Ave. and City Park Tuesday in west Toledo.

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    Djuan Gott, 12, lights candles for his brother DeShawn Gott, 21, at a vigil. DeShawn was fatally shot near the intersection of Woodland Ave. and City Park Tuesday in west Toledo. About 100 people turned out to pray together at the vigil. Mr. Gott's death marks the sixth homicide of 2018 in Toledo. THE BLADE/KATIE RAUSCH

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    DeAngelo Gott discuses his son, DeShawn Gott, 21, as guests visit with the family at their home in West Toledo. DeShawn Gott was fatally shot Tuesday evening near the intersection of Woodland Avenue and City Park. His death marks the sixth homicide of 2018 in Toledo.

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    DeShawn Gott, 21, is pictured in a photograph provided by a family member.

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    Danyelle Gott discuses her son, DeShawn Gott, 21, as guests visit with the family at their home Wednesday in West Toledo.

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    DeAngelo Gott discuses his son, DeShawn Gott, 21, as guests visit with the family at their home Wednesday, January 24, 2018, in west Toledo.

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    "We hear gunshots here all the time," Joe Rhoads said of the 600 block of Woodland Ave. Wednesday, January 24, 2018, in west Toledo. DeShawn Gott, 21, was fatally shot Tuesday evening near the intersection of Woodland Ave. and City Park. His death marks the sixth homicide of 2018 in Toledo. THE BLADE/KATIE RAUSCH

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Family and friends filled DeAngelo Gott’s South Toledo house Wednesday, but one person was missing.

He expected his son, DeShawn Gott, 21, to walk through the front door at any moment.

“I just [saw] and talked to him; it’s just like he’s going to walk in here any second,” the elder Mr. Gott, 42, said. “I don’t really accept it. I know it, but I don’t. I just don’t believe it. I just need to see where my son is.”

gott25-8

Family and friends gather near candles that spell, "DGOTT" at a vigil organized Wednesday, January 24, 2018, in remembrance of DeShawn Gott, 21, who was fatally shot near the intersection of Woodland Ave. and City Park Tuesday in west Toledo. About 100 people turned out to pray together at the vigil.

The Blade/Katie Rausch
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The younger Mr. Gott was fatally shot Tuesday in the 600 block of Woodland Avenue near City Park Avenue, according to police. Police said the shooting may have happened inside a vehicle.

When officers arrived at the scene, the victim had already been taken to ProMedica Toledo Hospital by his 22-year-old brother, according to Mr. Gott’s mother, Danyelle Gott.

RELATED: The Blade’s 2018 homicide report

Mr. Gott’s death is Toledo’s sixth homicide in 2018, and is part of a trend Toledo police acknowledge is troubling. According to The Blade’s homicide report, this is the earliest in more than a decade the city has recorded its sixth homicide. On average during the last 10 years it has taken 84 days — or until late March — for Toledo to record its sixth homicide.

Toledo police Chief George Kral said every homicide frustrates him, but murder is a difficult crime to prevent.

“There’s no police policy or no number of officers in the city that could’ve stopped that 11-month-old from getting killed...,” he said, referencing the murder of Nehemiah Wright. The child’s mother’s boyfriend, Eric Mathis, has been arrested and charged in connection with that crime.

VIDEO: DeAngelo Gott discusses the death of his son, DeShawn

The only other homicide case from this year resulting in an arrest as of Wednesday night was the shooting death of Larry Pendleton, 31. Lavelle Allen, 22, is accused of shooting him at the Moody Manor apartments during an argument Jan. 18.

Police believe 2018’s first homicide — the death of Quincy Holmes — was linked to gang retaliation, Chief Kral said Wednesday. Mr. Holmes, 24, was pronounced dead at the scene after he was found Jan. 1 with a gunshot wound while behind the wheel of a vehicle that crashed into a South Toledo apartment building.

He was facing criminal charges related to a Dec. 6 shootout between vehicles near Bennett Road and West Sylvania Avenue in West Toledo — midday gun violence that placed the nearby Whittier Elementary School in a lockdown.

Later that same day, police arrested three men accused of exchanging gunfire with officers outside a Monroe Street carryout. Chief Kral at the time characterized the arrests as a significant blow to violent crime in Toledo.

gott25-1

DeAngelo Gott discuses his son, DeShawn Gott, 21, as guests visit with the family at their home in West Toledo. DeShawn Gott was fatally shot Tuesday evening near the intersection of Woodland Avenue and City Park. His death marks the sixth homicide of 2018 in Toledo.

The Blade/Katie Rausch
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But since then, violence has started bubbling back to the surface.

“Like everything else, time goes on and people start feeling that the pressure is off, and they feel safer to go out and do what they feel they need to do,” the police chief said.

About 50 people, mostly West Toledo residents, met Chief Kral on Wedneday at the Eleanor Kahle Senior Center for a two-hour neighborhood meeting about crime. The senior center is about a mile from the scene of the December gunfight that locked Whittier down.

Chief Kral opened his address to the audience by mentioning that incident. The police-involved shooting later that day occurred while police actively sought suspects in the earlier shootout, he said.

“I’m here to see what we can do about all that crime that we see in the neighborhood and what we can do about taking back our neighborhood so we don’t have to worry about whether you can step out the door,” said Dona Brown, a West Toledo factory worker on disability.

“I don’t go out in the dark anymore. I used to go shopping at 2 or 3 in the morning, being used to being up at night after working the third shift, so long. I don’t do it anymore, because I fear for my safety.”

Mayor Wade Kapszukiewicz was unavailable to comment Wednesday, but released a statement through a city spokesman.

“The homicides that have occurred in Toledo so far this year are certainly concerning and I assure everyone that your police department is going above and beyond to identify the perpetrators of these crimes,” Mr. Kapszukiewicz said. “We are intensifying efforts to enhance safety in our community and, as I have said before, we must stand united against violence. The police officers of this city have my full support and I am working with Chief Kral to develop specific programs to combat gun violence.”

Mayor Kapszukiewicz has pledged to hire 40 police officers in each year of his administration, and the city has a class of 38 officers preparing to join the force soon. With retirements, the city should have an additional 60 to 70 officers in the department by the end of Mr. Kapszukiewicz’s first term.

Chief Kral recently added four officers to the gang task force. With the additional manpower expected under the new mayor, he said he would like to add more to that force and to the drug unit.

Chief Kral said the double homicide on Jan. 11 of Santiago Rease, 20, and Colleen Stamper, 19, is likely drug-related. Police also continue to investigate any drug connection to Mr. Gott’s slaying.

“A lot of these homicides are drug-related, and the gangs are the ones that are primarily selling these drugs,” Chief Kral said.

Mr. Gott died from a gunshot wound through his back that struck his spine, lungs, and trachea, according to the Lucas County Coroner’s Office.

Family and friends of Mr. Gott gathered Wednesday to remember him, then held a candlelight vigil in the evening.

His family described him as funny and loved by everyone.

“He definitely didn’t deserve that,” said his mother, 41.

Mr. Gott enjoyed music, his family said. He posted a video of himself rapping on his Facebook wall earlier this month.

The elder Mr. Gott said he spoke with his son on the phone at 10:09 p.m., around the time of the shooting. The younger Mr. Gott planned to pick up his 6-week-old son from his father’s home.

But he never came. Instead DeAngelo Gott received another call, but this time it was from his other son, telling the father to get to the hospital.

The elder Mr. Gott said family did not see DeShawn Gott at the hospital, and as of Wednesday afternoon, they still had not seen his body. Doctors told them about Mr. Gott’s death.

“It’s just word of mouth,” the elder Mr. Gott said.

Despite a recent surge in homicides, Toledo remains safe, Chief Kral said. Most shooting incidents are not random attacks and their frequency has declined over the past few years, he said.

The number of shootings has decreased 17 percent since 2015 to 464 incidents in 2017. In Toledo, 191 people were shot last year, Chief Kral said, which compares favorably to Cincinnati and Buffalo — both similar to Toledo in population.

“Homicides are unacceptably high, but we know who the bad players are and we’re focusing on them,” Chief Kral said. “I’m confident, with more resources, we’re going to make a dent in this.”

Staff writers Mike Sigov and Ryan Dunn contributed to this report.

Contact Allison Reamer at areamer@theblade.com, 419-724-6506, or on Twitter @AllisonRBlade.

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