Cincinnati police arrest murder suspect in downtown shooting

Chief deploying more officers downtown

CINCINNATI - The suspect in Monday's downtown homicide was arrested Wednesday night, a few hours after Chief Jeffrey Blackwell assured the public that police are acting quickly and forcefully to stop the violence following two nights of shooting near the heart of the city.

Police caught Fonte Williams, 22, of Westwood, without incident at about 7:15 p.m. in the 2700 block of Beekman Street. A judge set his bond at $100,000 Thursday morning.

Fonte Williams

Fonte Williams is arraigned Thursday. Ron Fischer | WCPO

Police charged Williams in Monday's fatal shooting of Joshua Taylor at Piatt Park, and they believe he was also involved in the drive-by shooting that wounded three people at the park Tuesday night, Blackwell said.

Blackwell said he is putting more officers downtown this week, especially with the Reds in town and the Bunbury Music Festival at Sawyer Point this weekend.

"We are not going to tolerate violent street crime in the city of Cincinnati,"  Blackwell said sternly. "We are not going to allow it to gain a foothold. It is unacceptable and our officers are prepared to deal with it.

"We're staffed, we have the adequate resources, and we have the focus now to address anything that emerges that is going to jeopardize the great quality of life not only in downtown Cincinnati."

The shootings took place near the busy intersection of Vine Street and Garfield Place, only a few steps from the main public library and Garfield Suites hotel. Blackwell said the shootings were "personal" and not gang-related.

Later, Blackwell went to the hotel and talked guests out of leaving. He personally delivered letters to the Cincinnati Opera - whose performers are staying at the hotel - and to hotel management assuring them that police would keep the area safe.

RELATED: Blackwell talks hotel guests out of leaving (Premium content)

"We plan to create a visible, safe (police) presence, not only downtown but throughout the city, starting right now," Blackwell said at Wednesday's news briefing.

"We had meetings all morning talking about how to redeploy our officers on the street," he said.

Blackwell said he was reassigning two quality-of-life officers from each district and canceling days off for motorcycle officers this weekend and placing them downtown.

He promised additional steps for the summer including:

> More foot, bike and Segway patrols;

> Active participation by Citizens On Patrol all over the city;

> Use of the covert unit.

Blackwell said police met with the library personnel to reassure them that they are safe.

Blackwell insisted that downtown is safe, and passers-by agreed.

"It's the safest it's been in a very long time," Blackwell said. "We've been talking about the 100 days of summer when crime normally peaks and we have not seen that peak."

Blackwell said police would not be "confrontational" and would not "provoke" people who are not breaking the law.

"We know the types of behavior that lead to violent crime and we are going to focus on that behavior," he said.

RELATED: View the police presentation on safety in pdf format

City Manager Scott Stiles speaks at the police briefing.

There was a noticeable increase in police presence at Piatt Park Wednesday. That helped ease the concerns of Macy's employees Kelvin Peyton and Lauren Kirk.

"Despite all this, I still think that downtown is safe," said Peyton, "and I feel like I'm not going to be a target of violence. It won't stop me from continuing to come downtown in the evening for Reds games and restaurants.

"I actually walk to work every day, so I'm not scared," Kirk said, "but I'll definitely pay more attention to who is around while I'm coming through this area and by the library especially. A lot of people hang out in that area."

Into Wednesday night, several squad cars, bike cops and officers on foot posted up around Vine Street and Garfield Place in an effort to make people feel comfortable, including guests of the nearby hotel.

Laura Hawkins and her husband, Timothy, said their stay at Garfield Suites has been eventful.

"(The shooters) just came up and from what my husband said, they just... no hesitation whatsoever, they just shot," she said. "No warning, no hesitation, no nothing. That is scary. That's pure terrorism."

Herschel Willis runs downtown's Fins and Feather BBQ restaurant, feet from where people were shot this week.

"Well, it's sad, it really is," he said. "No it doesn't frighten me. It's just... I hate seeing that happen. I hate seeing it happen."

Blackwell vowed to move forcefully against violent crime anywhere in the city, not just downtown.

"For the entire 52 neighborhoods in Cincinnati, we want the message out there that violent street crime is not going to be tolerated because not only is crime paralyzing, but the fear of crime is equally as paralyzing to people, and it causes people to not do things that they ordinarily would do and that is enjoy our great city," Blackwell said.

Anyone with more information about the shootings is asked to call the Criminal Investigation Section at 352-3542 or Crime Stoppers at 352-3040 or text “CINTIP” plus your message to CRIMES (274637).

Blackwell said the three victims from Tuesday's shooting are expected to be OK.

"They were just sitting having conversation and the vehicle drove up and unloaded with multiple gunshots," he said.

RELATED: Downtown business owner says he no longer feels safe

Officers said Monday night that Taylor and the shooter were arguing in the middle of the intersection over comments the shooter made to a woman with Taylor when gunfire erupted.

Blackwell said Tuesday night that Taylor's killing may have involved more than that, and that the two men may have known each other and had deeper ties.

"There was no incident leading up to (the shooting), no drive-by shooting, no target,” Cincinnati Homicide Commander Lt. Dave Johnston said. “Our indication is this was… confined to two subjects and that the person shot was the intended victim."

WCPO's Jason Law, Holly Pennebaker and Max Alter contributed to this report.


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