Dayton community unites after tragedy: ‘We will not succumb to fear’

Hours after Sunday morning’s mass shooting in the Oregon District, community members gathered just blocks from the scene and vowed not to let hate win.

>> LATEST DEVELOPMENTS: 9 dead, but police chief says toll could have been ‘catastrophic’

Two vigils Sunday gave the community a chance to come together in grief and with hope.

Ten doves were released during the vigil: one for each victim killed and one that represented the 27 people injured in the attack that happened around 1 a.m. near Ned Peppers Bar on East Fifth Street. The suspected shooter was killed by police less than a minute after he opened fire.

“We must continue to support one another here at home,” Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley told the crowd gathered at an evening candlelight vigil in the Oregon District. “As we’ve endured these horrible times, this community has learned about each other and what is most important to us. People who never would have crossed paths have helped each other in our most painful moments. Dayton has done what Dayton does best. We take care of each other.”

>> EVENING VIGIL: People fill Fifth Street for candlelight vigil honoring Oregon District victims

Tears ran down the cheeks of some visitors to the Levitt Pavilion Dayton during Sunday afternoon’s vigil, as people sang songs and hymns and talked about the importance of uniting and helping the community heal.

>> AFTERNOON VIGIL: Prayer vigil held downtown in wake of Oregon District mass shooting

“We will not succumb to fear,” said Caleb Ingram, the executive director of Declare Worship Community. “I don’t want to hear people say, ‘Oh, we can’t go to Dayton anymore, we are afraid of what might happen. We can’t go to Levitt Pavilion anymore, we are afraid. We can’t got to the Oregon District anymore. We afraid.’ We are not going to give fear an opportunity.”

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The venue is located across from the Dayton Convention Center, a meeting place for family members who had loved ones involved in the mass shooting that sent shock waves through the community.

“Just don’t stop loving people,” Burton said after the vigil.

Community members visited Fifth Street and other parts of downtown to mourn the victims of the bloodshed and try to help friends, loved ones and strangers get through the dark chapter in Dayton’s history.

>>MORE COVERAGE: Oregon District shooting: What we’ve learned about the victims

Airiana Camp, who was friends with shooting victim Lois Oglesby, visited Fifth Street on Sunday afternoon and stood outside the police tape.

“I just want to feel my sister’s spirit, be around her, feel her, basically be where she was killed,” she said.

Dayton-area residents have been responding to the Oregon District mass shooting in a variety of ways — from offering helping hands, to worry, to spiritual messages.

Angela Kaskocsak of Dayton drove to the Oregon District early Sunday to offer people free rides home after hearing one witness interviewed on the radio saying they were stranded. She sat in her car with a sign on her dashboard offering free rides.

>> What we know about suspected shooter

“My purpose was because I’m also a therapist and maybe I could talk with him on the way home to kind of process out what happened,” Kaskocsak said

At Sunday morning services at Holy Trinity Catholic Church, a few hundred yards east of the shooting site, Rev. Ken Pleiman tried to help parishioners process the tragedy. He said people are shocked and lost after a three-month stretch that included a Ku Klux Klan rally, devastating tornadoes and, now, a mass shooting.

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“Once more this morning, we’re challenged to look at this hatred that seems to be overwhelming our country,” Pleiman said. “In our world there is both unity and virtue, there is also hatred and anger. Each day we have the opportunity to embrace one another. The scriptures tell us about these two facets of life and leave no doubt as to where God is leading us and what we must do.”

People laid wreathes and flowers at multiple places downtown honoring the dead, including at the Levitt Pavilion.

Friends and strangers hugged and embraced each other.

Celeste Pickett went up and put her arms around Brittany Mitchell, a complete stranger, because she was standing by herself crying.

“You never leave anyone alone,” Pickett said.

Thomas Jones of Trotwood released nine white pigeons at the park in honor of the nine people who were killed.

Sonya Lewis, who lives in Dayton, said she gave Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine sunflowers to place near the scene of the shooting.

Lewis said she was at the Levitt Pavilion on Saturday night and was invited to the Oregon District but chose not to go.

“It could have been me,” she said.

No parent should have to bury a child, and the pain that comes with that is still fresh and raw, even many years later, she said.

The shooting happened in the most popular place to dine, drink and play in Dayton.

>>MORE COVERAGE: Dayton shooting: How to donate to help Oregon District victims

In the hours after the shooting, countless people sent panicked messages and texts from friends and relatives, worried their loved ones might be among the dead and injured.

Camp said Oglesby was the life of the party.

She never had drama and made everyone smile, Camp said.

Camp said she came to the crime scene to honor Oglesby’s memory.

“I’ll be down here to put balloons and fliers up everyday,” she said.

Oglesby was out with friends. She was shot in the head and called the father of her children, saying she believed she was only grazed, Camp said.

She didn’t even think she needed to go to the hospital, Camp said.

Some community members say they want action by lawmakers to try to prevent shootings like this. They are calling for gun control reforms, like better background checks and bans on assault rifles.

“I’m for weapons — I had 20 years in the military — but you don’t need an AR-15 for a deer hunt,” said Charles Lee Mcglothan, 60, who lives in Huber Heights.

Mcglothan visited Fifth Street on Sunday afternoon to pay his respects to the dead.

He said violence can happen anywhere, and it is important that people be on the lookout for signs that someone may be about to commit an attack.

DaQuawna Farrow, a community volunteer and elder at Restoration Church, said the community came together when 15 Memorial Day tornadoes swept through the Miami Valley.

“This is the opportunity for us to rise to the occasion and to be resilient people that we have been,” she said. “I just declare life and peace over the city of Dayton. I want to pray with you all because I believe change is coming. Change is on the way.”

Community activist Nozipo Glenn, a native of Cape town, South Africa, said she know two people related to shooting victims.

“Even if you didn’t know the person yourself, even if they were not in you particular family, someone you know knew that person,” Glenn said. “It affects us all.”

Staff writers Amelia Robinson and Max Filby contributed to this report.