Local group, fighting gun deaths for decades, keeps seeking solutions

A small group meets every month to remember local homicide victims and do what they can to turn the tide on gun violence

Each year in the Miami Valley, dozens of people lose their lives to gun violence — enough incidents that we risk becoming desensitized to it.

On the second Saturday of each month, a group gathers in Dayton’s McIntosh Park to make sure those killed in the previous month are remembered, most recently:

A 32-year-old mother who was pregnant;

A 44-year-old man survived by his fiancée and children;

A 67-year-old man whose son is charged with the killing.

The monthly vigils originated in the early 1990s, spearheaded by the Sisters of the Precious Blood Catholic women’s apostolic congregation of Dayton. Thirty years later, they’re still trying.

“It grew out of a desire to reduce the violence in our community,” said Rev. David Fox, a Baptist minister and former police chief who has been involved in these vigils regularly since their inception. “The (Sisters) saw a need to deal with this problem and from a community involvement perspective, they couldn’t get out and protest, but they could pray.”

Around a dozen people gathered at the park on the second Saturday in June to honor those killed by gunfire from May 6 through June 8. Along with Fox, attendees included Sisters of the Precious Blood congregation members, retired physician and longtime vigil participant Jaime Pacheco, two Dayton Police Department officers, vigil planner Jane Bohman, and other members of the community.

“As I gather this information each month, I just feel tremendous sorrow that another family has to go through this ... It causes a ripple effect and the suffering just continues on and on,” Bohman said, highlighting the importance of ending the cycle.

“We have to acknowledge it and work toward creating a healthier community with resources and opportunities,” she said. “If we do that and murders continue, at least we can say we did what we could, but we are far from that.”

Initially, the memorial meet-ups were held at the actual site of each homicide caused by gun violence. Holding space and prayer within each of these communities had a big impact, Fox said.

“That first year, there were 52 homicides (in Dayton), so we held 52 vigils. We kept doing it and began to see the fruits of our labor,” Fox said. “The next year, the total homicides was in the 20s. It’s not that we stopped anything; we believe that God’s divine intervention has a lot to do with it. It was powerful.”

Remembering the victims

During this month’s vigil, the group honored five individuals killed.

Precious Taste, 32, and 16-year-old Dae’ante Johnson were shot and killed on May 24 in a home within the 1400 block of Shaftesbury Road. Taste was four months pregnant at the time of her murder. Nicole “Nico” Cunigan, 32, of Dayton, who had twins with Taste, according to police, faces murder charges in the case.

Credit: Marshall Gorby

Credit: Marshall Gorby

Tyrans McGuire Sr., 44, was shot and killed on May 6 at the DeSoto Bass Homes. He is survived by his fiancée and children.

The Dayton Police Department Homicide Unit is investigating McGuire’s death. Anyone with information or video should call police at 937-333-COPS (2677). People can also submit tips anonymously through Miami Valley Crime Stoppers at 937-222-STOP or online at MiamiValleyCrimeStoppers.com.

Leo August, 67, was shot and killed on May 10 in Kettering. August’s son, Justin S. August, 35, of Kettering, faces murder charges, according to Kettering Municipal Court records.

Colby Ross, 35, was killed at Ohio 49 and U.S. 35 when the car he was driving was struck by a driver who was fleeing the police. Melissa Hutchins, 50, of Trotwood has been charged with aggravated vehicular homicide.

While Ross did not die by gunshot, Bohman said she felt the “senseless” act by which he was killed should be acknowledged as part of the region’s wider issue of violence.

Credit: Marshall Gorby

Credit: Marshall Gorby

Homicide statistics

In the Miami Valley, Montgomery County has far surpassed nearby Warren and Greene counties in gun-related deaths within recent years. Montgomery County’s population surpasses the latter two counties, but the numbers are still not proportional.

The most recent census data shows the population in Montgomery County as nearly 534,000; Warren County has a population of about 252,000; and Greene has 169,000.

According to the coroner’s office in each county, the total number of deaths caused by guns from 2020 to June 11 of this year are as follows:


* 63 in 2020

* 45 in 2021

* 51 in 2022

* 55 in 2023

* 19 so far in 2024


* 4 in 2020

* 6 in 2021

* 3 in 2022

* 3 in 2023

* None so far in 2024


* 4 in 2020

* None in 2021

* 1 in 2022

* None in 2023

* None so far in 2024

Reasons and solutions

Fox, who was born, raised, and has worked all his life in Dayton, has seen firsthand the conditions that can lead to an individual’s increased risk of perpetrating gun violence.

“The root of the problem is a lack of resources, lack of jobs, poor education, and until you fix that, we’re going to always have these problems,” he said. “... You look at the neighborhoods and see deprived communities; housing is horrible, young people are going around stealing cars just to sell them for $100 because they have no money, so if these conditions continue, you’re going to continue seeing this crime and violence.”

Fox said things like job programs and summertime programming for the youth is critically important to allow young people a chance to find work and rise above poverty to avoid resorting to drugs and crime.

Bohman opined that the cause of violent deaths cannot be attributed to guns alone, or to a single issue or situation.

“It’s not just the impoverished parts of the city, either,” she said, highlighting that gun deaths can happen between strangers, acquaintances, within family units, and even accidentally. “We tend to tell ourselves that it only happens somewhere else, but it can absolutely happen anywhere. And issues like domestic violence have no economic or social boundaries.”

Jeanette Buehler is a Sister of the Precious Blood who’s been involved with the vigils for decades. Buehler noted that the effort to curb gun-related deaths, and violence as a whole, falls on the shoulders of every person within a society. A lack of empathy within the American culture of recent years has led to a continued increase in tension, she added.

“Don’t underestimate what’s happening in our country as a whole; we no longer talk to each other,” Buehler said. “There’s so much going on where we learn to hate each other instead of really caring about each other.”

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