Dayton mayor asks for patience as police investigate downtown shooting

Dayton mayor, police chief express disappointment, promise ‘technology’ to help investigation

Two people were shot Tuesday afternoon on South Jefferson Street near the Levitt Pavilion Dayton, which is the second shooting to occur in this part of downtown in the last seven weeks.

Downtown supporters and city and police officials say the urban center is generally very safe, but downtown has seen an increase in crime this year, and these two shootings aren’t helping improve perceptions of public safety.

“We want to assure everyone that their safety remains our top priority,” Dayton police Chief Kamran Afzal said in a statement to the Dayton Daily News.

According to Montgomery County Regional Dispatch Center, emergency crews were called to the 100 block of S. Jefferson Street at about 5:30 p.m. Tuesday on a report of shots fired.

A police dispatch log shows that multiple witnesses gave similar accounts of the shots coming from a silver Acura that quickly drove west on Fourth Street.

On social media, Dayton police said that officers found two victims, who were taken to an area hospital in non-life-threatening condition. One of the victims has since been released, police said.

The shooting is being investigated by detectives from the Violent Offender Unit, according to police.

In a joint statement Tuesday evening, both Dayton Mayor Jeffrey Mims Jr. and police Chief Afzal expressed unhappiness with the shooting downtown.

“It pains me to talk about the situation downtown today,” Mims said, pointing to improvements to the quality of life in Dayton in general and in downtown Dayton in particular in recent years.

Afzal expressed disappointment, saying that incidents like this are rare in downtown Dayton but it is “very, very fortunate” that the two victims were not killed and should be OK.

The shooting happened near the Levitt Pavilion Dayton, which is a free outdoor concert venue located between the 100 blocks of South Jefferson Street and South Main Street, south of East Fourth Street.

Although the shooting did not happen at the pavilion, the venue has security cameras and its staff are working with police in their ongoing investigation, said Madeline Hart, the Levitt Pavilion Dayton’s director of marketing and communications.

The Levitt’s final free show of the 2023 season was on Sunday. The pavilion property serves as a public park space when it is not hosting concerts or private events.

“We do work hard to keep our venue as a safe and welcoming place and we hear from many people from our audience that they feel it is,” Hart said. “We have done extensive risk-mitigation training, have an emergency preparedness plan that we update and review regularly and we work with off-duty and on-duty police officers as our security team to keep our concerts safe and welcoming to all.”

Seven weeks ago, at about 12:30 a.m. Aug. 1, Dayton police responded to the 100 block of South Main Street, which is by the west end of the pavilion, after hearing gunshots.

Police discovered that Robert Blackstone, 51, had been shot in the chest.

Blackstone, a local artist, later died, and authorities arrested a 43-year-old suspect, Antonio Marvin Murray.

Blackstone’s death was the first homicide downtown since the 2019 mass shooting in the Oregon District, officials said.

Police say shootings and violent crime are relatively rare in downtown, especially compared to other parts of the city. But the urban center saw a significant increase in violent offenses in the first seven months of the year.

Through Aug. 3, downtown (called the central business district) had 37 part I violent crime offenses and 175 Part II violent offenses, this newspaper previously reported.

That’s up from 29 Part I incidents and 109 Part II offenses during the same period in 2022.

On Tuesday, both Mayor Mims and Chief Afzal said that “technology” approved by the city commission would be used to help solve Tuesday’s shooting.

Neither specified which technology they meant, but earlier this year the Dayton City Commission approved the use of Fusus video aggregation technology in downtown Dayton.

This allows the police department to access live streaming video and recorded footage from cameras that belong to businesses and other private owners.

The system, which police said is entirely voluntary, was narrowly approved in a contentious commission meeting in February. Dayton police also have deployed license plate readers in police cruisers and at some fixed sites.

A representative from Dayton police on Wednesday said that Mims and Afzal weren’t referring to any specific technology and police would use various technology resources available.

“Let’s be patient as we work thorough this process,” the mayor said, “and continue to have the faith in us and the city that we will do the right thing and to continue to have Dayton the best place for you to live, raise a family, grow old and be educated.”

Afzal said that police have lot of resources at their disposal to try to solve this crime and detectives will follow leads and information from the victims and witnesses.

“We’re also very thankful for our commission that authorized us to use technology, and we are in the process of using that technology to identify the culprits who want to bring harm to our community,” he added.

On Wednesday, Dayton police officials installed a mobile video surveillance trailer near the eastern edge of the Levitt pavilion, along the 100 block of South Jefferson Street.

The solar-powered unit has a tall pole with multiple cameras at the top. Police placed gates around the trailer.

The first block of south Jefferson Street is home to the Greater Dayton RTA’s downtown bus hub and regularly it is packed with people, especially during afterschool hours.

But the section of Jefferson Street just south of the bus hub currently is blocked off by metal fencing, which is part of a city beautification project.

Groups of people that typically gather on the sidewalk in front of the storefronts on this part of Jefferson Street have been forced to move elsewhere because of the fencing.

Chief Afzal says downtown Dayton continues to be a safe and vibrant community.