A sudden swell of gun violence in Dayton — 11 homicides and as many drive-by shootings into homes this year — appears to have calmed in recent weeks.
Police won’t disclose what, if any, clear links they’ve established among the incidents — and many appear to be unrelated — but the recent arrests of three suspects by a special police unit may be playing a part in the reduction in violence.
Despite the arrests, the toll has been high for the neighborhoods plagued by the violence.
Belinda Williams lost her son, Matthew L. Anderson, 20, when he was shot dead in a car when the vehicle inadvertently entered the line of fire while a house was being shot up during a drive-by on Prescott Avenue.
Anderson, one of six children, was a Meadowdale High School graduate who had decided on a career in law enforcement. “He wanted to be a police officer. That was his dream since he was a little boy,” Belinda said. “His life was too short.”
The uptick from Jan. 1 until Feb. 24, which saw the deaths of 10 of the victims, is all the more disturbing because it followed a sharp drop in city shootings and murders in 2012 after three years of coordinated gang and criminal group violence suppression by the Community Initiative to Reduce Gun Violence, or CIRGV.
The program merges community outreach with crime targeting and includes Dayton Police, the Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office, Trotwood Police, the Montgomery County Prosecutor’s Office, the U.S. Attorney and the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
In January, Police Chief Richard Biehl credited CIRGV with reducing “group-related homicides” to two in 2012. The year prior there were 10.
Lt. Col. Bob Chabali, assistant Dayton police chief, said CIRGV, and its FBI-assisted anti-gang/criminal group effort, helped quash the recent gunfire.
The three suspects arrested and facing possible federal charges in U.S. District Court are Wesley A.G. Pope, 20, Phillip D.J. Parks, 24, and Kenneth L. Wynn, 26. All have criminal records and were armed when arrested between Feb. 26 and March 7.
Besides facing potential federal weapons charges, Pope and Wynn also are accused of heroin dealing. All three men are being held because they’re considered flight risks and could face even more serious charges, federal court records say.
Pope was apprehended on the same street — Prescott Avenue — where weeks earlier Anderson was killed
Chabali said “the message is out” to other violent types because of the prospect of federal prosecution for the trio.
“We have recovered weapons, we’ve made arrests, we’ve recovered drugs and I think everybody and anybody in the region benefits from these type of suspects being arrested, especially charged in the federal arena,” Chabali said.
Chabali said that because investigations and interventions are ongoing, he’s limited in what he can say.
Police reports examined by the Dayton Daily News, however, tell a story of the furious spate of gun violence squeezed into a short period.
Three of those killed in the first two months of 2013 — all of them men — were found slain in their automobiles. They are Willie H. Boddie, Jr, 28, shot to death in his car parked at 2647 Riverview Avenue at H&H Service Center/Car Wash; Anderson when he drove into the line of fire in the 4000 block of Prescott Avenue, and Charles L. Black Jr., 26, found shot to death while sitting in his car at 1610 Bancroft St.
When Anderson was killed at 9:30 p.m. Jan. 31, it was the second time that day that gunshots were fired into a house in the 4000 block of Prescott Avenue in the Greenwich Village neighborhood. On Wednesday, the home’s siding still showed bullet holes. Glass fragments littered the front porch.
Biehl said Anderson, 20, has no known association with any of the crime outfits targeted by police and he appears to have been an innocent bystander. His mother described a dutiful son who took her to doctor’s appointments. His perfect attendence certificates from school hung on a living room wall at her house.
She called for answers. “For my peace of mind I want to know why they shot him,” she said. “To me he was in the wrong place at the wrong time. Someone was shooting in the neighborhood earlier that day. We thought it had stopped. He wasn’t no trouble maker. That’s a good boy.”
Criminal groups the target
The recent gun violence seems to include domestic shootings, arguments among acquaintances, and street slayings. Many of the motives are not clear. In one three-day period — Feb. 17 until Feb. 19 — seven houses were shot up.
But it’s the violent feud between two criminal groups that’s the target of the increased heat from authorities. The three arrested are seen as suspects in an ugly series of tit-for-tat retaliation-style shootings.
Parks was apprehended Feb. 26 when an off-duty police officer stopped at a gas station and recognized a black 1985 Chevrolet Camaro mentioned at police roll calls as a suspect vehicle. Parks was found with a Taurus 9 millimeter handgun with one round in the chamber and 10 rounds in the magazine. He was carrying $2,065 cash and two cell phones. Parks was convicted in 2010 of attempting to smuggle drugs into a detention facility, a felony.
The federal complaint said Parks also is a suspect in the Nov. 23 shoot-up of a residence at 1801 Tennyson Ave.
Parks and at least one other are suspected of firing into the house where three children ages 4 to 14 slept. The shooting was possibly in retaliation for the shooting death of Aundric Kerley several hours earlier as he left Club Vault, a downtown night spot, police said, because the address was home to the mother of a person of interest in Kerley’s death.
Police found 10 shell casings outside the house, four bullets inside. The shells were from at least three different weapons, police said. Parks’ alleged accomplice that night was also named as a possible suspect in the shooting into a habitation on Prescott Avenue in January that ultimately resulted in Anderson’s death.
That dispute also may have started with an argument at a nightclub that led to shots being fired into the houses of family members of those involved, according to police reports.
Pope was arrested March 1 when Dayton police officers patrolling near the Greenwich Village neighborhood off Gettysburg Avenue saw a tan 2001 GMC Yukon with dark, illegally-tinted windows at a residence on Prescott Avenue. The neighborhood and its surrounds have been a crime hot spot from time to time, considered home turf of the Greenwich Village Clique, a gang on the Montgomery County Sheriff’s watch list.
Inside the vehicle, police found a Ruger .44 magnum revolver loaded with six live rounds, four cell phones, a dinner plate with heroin residue, and a Kraft cheddar cheese zip top baggie holding 131 heroin capsules. Pope, who had $1,380 in cash in his pockets, told police the heroin was his, but denied he owned the firearm.
Court records show Pope was not allowed to have a weapon because of a robbery conviction while a juvenile. At the time, he was prosecuted as an adult. Paperwork filed with the federal court indicates that one reason for Pope’s detainment is that he may have committed “an offense for which the maximum sentence is life imprisonment or death,” but is not more specific.
Wynn was taken into custody March 7 after a special police unit spotted his vehicle near Cornell Ridge Apartments and pursued him into Harrison Twp.
Police found a Glock .45 caliber semiautomatic handgun loaded with 10 rounds, a Smith & Wesson 9-millimeter semiautomatic handgun loaded with nine rounds, a Colt .223-caliber rifle with a 100-round drum magazine, empty gel capsules, a scale and heroin. Wynn has previous convictions for having weapons under disability and possession of heroin.
Wynn’s federal detainer also lists that he may have committed “an offense for which the maximum sentence is life imprisonment or death.”
Chabali said the region’s serious heroin problem makes the flurry of violence more than just a city of Dayton problem.
“There’s more regionalization within the criminal element,” Chabali said. “We know for a fact that the folks travel out of the city into other areas and, in essence, that’s why we have the combined efforts of the CIRGV program with the federal (agents) and the Trotwood Police Department is involved in that also. So that’s why it’s a more regional effort.
“To say that it’s just specific to (the city), and that these guys would not be traveling out of Dayton, would be pretty closed-minded.”