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Community, city leaders searching for answers to stop violence after shootings

18 people were shot, 4 fatally, early Sunday morning
Posted at 11:29 PM, Aug 16, 2020
and last updated 2020-08-17 11:41:03-04

CINCINNATI — A total of 18 people were shot, four fatally, throughout Cincinnati in the early Sunday morning hours, according to Cincinnati Police. Three of the four incidents occurred within a single 90-minute span.

Within hours, city and community leaders alike took to the streets, and social media, to support community members affected by the shootings, offer opinions and solutions and to counsel those who needed it.

City leaders offered differing ideas of what should be done to curb the increasing gun violence in Cincinnati. So far, 2020 is on track to be one of the deadliest in the city in years. During a May press conference, Mayor John Cranley announced that more people have died from gun violence in the last month in the city of Cincinnati than from COVID-19. He said then that 30 more people died in April than in the same month in 2019.

"The police can’t solve crimes without people giving tips to solve crimes," said Betsy Sundermann, Cincinnati city council member. "But to be able to do that people need to trust police and they need to trust that the police and the court system will protect them from people who might hurt them."

Sundermann said she also supports expanding Shotspotter technology, which helped officers respond quickly to the different shootings, but she also said members of the local communities need to hold each other accountable and work together to address gun violence in the city.

Council member Jan Michele Lemon Kearney issued a statement saying she believed the solutions to the issue were complicated.

"There is no magic cure," the statement read. "Extreme reactions like doubling the police presence or, conversely, keeping the police out of the communities, are not answers. The problem of community violence requires us to pull together all resources to implement reasoned and reasonable multi-faceted solutions."

Mayor John Cranley also issued a statement, pointing out that many major cities have been going through a similar uptick in violent crime, as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to drag on. He stressed that he blames the shooters, but cited a lack of activities to do and large gatherings in homes and public spaces attended by armed people.

"During COVID-19 we have seen a huge increase in shootings as large numbers of people with guns are gathering in private homes and public places—like Grant park—when the bars close at 10 pm," the statement reads. "Guns are far too prevalent at these gatherings. Please do not attend gatherings, because you could end up as an innocent victim...The very sad reality is people are getting in trouble when they have nowhere to go and nothing to do. Our police are working very hard to bring the shooters to justice and try to suppress this violence. They will put themselves in harm’s way to protect us all and they need our support."

Chief Eliot Isaac also announced in a statement that the Cincinnati Police Department would be adding more uniformed officers to patrols in the neighborhoods affected by Sunday morning's shootings.

"This amount of gun violence and the damage this has inflicted on our neighborhoods is unacceptable," said Isaac in the statement. "I am calling on all citizens of this great city to say enough is enough. We must not sit by silently and say we can't do anything to end gun violence. We all have a moral obligation to stop the violence and stop the killing in our communities."

Community members and activists in the neighborhoods hardest hit by the increase in gun violence said they believe that communities currently struggle with the resources to address the gun violence in their communities, and that public policy still needs to change to pave the way.

"Everybody is looking for, 'what is the solution?' and there is no solution," said pastor Jackie Jackson, a member of the survivor team for Every Town for Gun Safety, which helps provide support for victims of gun violence. "There's a lot of things that need to take -- we need to make sure people go out and vote and make sure our politicians know we need reform gun laws...We need common-sense gun laws -- finance in the community -- and some conversations. Some hard conversations."

Mitchell Morris, who works with the Cincinnati Works Phoenix Program, said he hopes people will become more involved. He said in more than 30 years walking Cincinnati's streets speaking out against gun violence, Sunday morning sticks out as one of the worst nights he's seen.

"You know, you’ve got babies out here getting shot and babies out here shooting folks," said Morris. "Just asking more and more people to get involved. Please don’t wait until it happens to you."

Pastor Ennis Tait, president of the Faith and Community Alliance, said he believes the police have a role to play in communities, but that community members also have a role in making Cincinnati a safer place.

"Unfortunately, last night was, for me, a rude awakening for where we are in our city," Tait said. "We have seen gun violence and we have seen the uptick for the last three or four months. We had to anticipate that this was coming."

Cincinnati Police have not yet announced any information regarding suspects in any of Sunday morning's shootings.