One year after mass shooting, frustration in Ohio city

One year after mass shooting, frustration in Ohio city

One year after mass shooting, frustration in Ohio city

DAYTON, Ohio — Tormented by mind-scarring memories and questions without answers, Dion Green has dedicated his life after the death of his father and eight other people in a mass shooting in Dayton, Ohio, to memorializing them and trying to bring helpful change.

“That purpose is my ‘Why?’” said Green, whose father died in his arms after he was caught in the barrage of bullets in Dayton’s Oregon entertainment district in the early morning of Sunday, Aug. 4, one year ago. “I didn’t die, so that’s why I’m still here fighting.”

Besides the nine killed, 17 other people were wounded in barely half a minute before police fatally shot the gunman in front of a bar where, had he gotten inside, the toll could have risen rapidly. The mass shooting brought an outpouring of community grieving and support, along with a “Dayton Strong” slogan.

There is frustration and disappointment as the first anniversary Tuesday nears, much of it because of coronavirus-necessitated safety orders and restrictions against large public gatherings and late-night bar discussions.

“That’s what’s so tough about it,” Mayor Nan Whaley said. “This is a bad mix for COVID-19, frankly. We want to hug each other and to be with each other, and we just cannot do it.”

“I believe that, at least for some, this is going to be a very difficult one-year mark without that presence of community,” said Dayton Police Chief Richard Biehl, who recounted an astoundingly large turnout for a community vigil the night following the shooting.

The city plans a series of activities people can share in at home. There will be a nine-minute remembrance at 8:04 p.m. — representing Aug. 4 — as well as candle-lighting and special online programming.

Whaley said land has been donated for a permanent memorial, but authorities want to be deliberate about deciding what to put there.

There are small posters in many storefronts in the Oregon district offering a mental health program through a county board for a long list of issues, from anger to nightmares to withdrawal from others.

Social distancing for the pandemic hasn’t helped the situation, said city Fire Chief Jeff Lykins.

“I think personally, the best healing occurs when we talk with each other face-to-face. Maybe it’s on the back porch … the COVID has hurt; that people aren’t able to get together, not able to have the parking lot therapy,” said Lykins.

He and Biehl said their departments’ members are recovering at different rates after a traumatic year that also included responding to damaging tornadoes, a deadly accident involving a stolen police cruiser that killed two 6-year-old children, and the fatal shooting of a Dayton police detective. A Dayton firefighter also killed himself, although authorities aren’t sure what led to the suicide.

Biehl said authorities are disappointed they’re still awaiting the findings of an FBI investigation into the influences and motivations of Connor Betts, the 24-year-old gunman whose sister, Megan, 22, was among those killed. He said more than 100 interviews have been conducted in that probe.

“We had hoped to have this investigation concluded and to be able to report to the community before Aug. 4,” Biehl said, saying he hopes police officials will have a pandemic-delayed meeting with federal authorities within weeks.

The FBI Cincinnati office said in a statement Monday that it is still investigating the shooting in partnership with local officials.

“We remain engaged with our partners at the Dayton Police Department in this ongoing investigation, and will continue to do so to ensure all evidence and information connected to this case is thoroughly examined,” it said.“The families deserve to know,” said Green, whose father, Derrick Fudge, died at age 57.

There are other frustrations unrelated to the coronavirus. Within hours of the Dayton shooting, which came on the heels of a mass slaying of 22 people in El Paso, Texas, politicians started calling for gun ownership reforms.

But a year later, they’re still waiting.

“I’m disappointed by just how little has changed,” said Whaley, a Democrat. “I was hoping Dayton would be the city that made change happen.”

Reducing gun violence has been among the projects Green has taken on. He helped organize a “No More Silence End Gun Violence” rally recently in his native Springfield, Ohio. He’s formed the Fudge Foundation — Flourishing Under Distress Giving Encouragement — to provide support and connections for survivors of violence and trauma.

He also published a book “Act of God/Act of Man” detailing the Memorial Day 2019 tornadoes that damaged his home, followed by the Dayton shootings. He offers personal testimony of religious faith.

He remains in therapy; sometimes he gets angry, sometimes, “I just shut down,” he said.

“It’s hard to believe that it’s about to be a year since I’ve had a conversation with my father,” Green said in an interview outside his home, a tornado-uprooted tree in view nearby.

“You can keep replaying that scene over and over and over. Like what if? What if I didn’t take him there?” Green said. “That’s one of the toughest battles I fight.”

On Tuesday evening, he will return to the Oregon district site. He has bought flowers to place in honour of the victims, and will bring masks and hand sanitizer for anyone who wants to join in a socially distanced candlelight vigil.

“For something like that that affected plenty of people,” he said, “it was only right that I bring people together.”

___

This story has been corrected to show that the name of a foundation referenced is Under Distress, not Under Duress.

___

Follow Dan Sewell at https://www.twitter.com/dansewell.

Dan Sewell, The Associated Press

Mass shootings

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney said the Canadian government should consider sanctions on the U.S. if they refuse to reconsider the decision to cancel the Keystone XL Pipeline. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Keystone XL officially cancelled, Kenney vows to fight on

U.S. President Joe Biden cancelled the presidential permit for the pipeline on first day of office

Alberta’s chief medical officer of health Dr. Deena Hinshaw said province’s test positivity rate for COVID-19 is steadily declining. (Photo by Chris Schwarz/Government of Alberta)
669 new COVID-19 cases in Alberta, 21 additional deaths

COVID-19 test positivity rate down to 4.5 per cent

Kyla Gibson with her boyfriend Gavin Hardy. (Photo used with permission)
Sylvan Lake couple lose ‘fur babies’ to house fire

‘They were our world and nothing will ever replace them,’ Kyla Gibson said of her three pets

Alberta Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Deena Hinshaw reported an additional 456 COVID-19 cases over the past 24 hours. (photography by Chris Schwarz/Government of Alberta)
Five new COVID-19 deaths in Central zone, two in Red Deer

Province reports 456 new cases of COVID-19

Businesses are getting creative to keep cash flowing. (File photo)
Central Albertan lobbying government to help those affected by CERB repayments

Catherine Hay says she received a letter in November saying she had to completely repay the benefit

(Thesendboys/Instagram)
Video of man doing backflip off Vancouver bridge draws police condemnation

Group says in Instagram story that they ‘don’t do it for the clout’

Toronto’s Mass Vaccination Clinic is shown on Sunday January 17, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn
Canadian malls, conference centres, hotels offer up space for COVID vaccination centres

Commercial real estate association REALPAC said that a similar initiative was seeing success in the U.K.

Kamala Harris and Joe Biden are sworn into office on Wednesday, Jan. 20, 2021, at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C. (Saul Loeb/Pool Photo via AP)
Joe Biden has been sworn in as the 46th president of the United States

About 25,000 National Guard members have been dispatched to Washington

A memorial for the fatal bus crash involving the Humboldt Broncos hockey team at the intersection of Highways 35 and 335 near Tisdale, Tuesday, October 27, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Liam Richards
‘End of the road:’ Truck driver in Humboldt Broncos crash awaits deportation decision

Sidhu was sentenced almost two years ago to eight years after pleading guilty to dangerous driving

In this March 28, 2017, file photo, a dump truck hauls coal at Contura Energy’s Eagle Butte Mine near Gillette, Wyo. Public opposition to the Alberta government’s plans to expand coal mining in the Rocky Mountains appears to be growing. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP/Mead Gruver, File
Alberta cancels coal leases, pauses future sales, as opposition increases

New Democrat environment critic Marlin Schmidt welcomed the suspension

File photo
Wetaskiwin Crime Reduction Unit recovers valuable stolen property

Property valued at over $50,000 recovered by Wetaskiwin Crime Reduction Unit.

In this March 28, 2017, file photo, a dump truck hauls coal at Contura Energy’s Eagle Butte Mine near Gillette, Wyo. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP/Mead Gruver, File)
First Nations seek to intervene in court challenge of coal policy removal

Bearspaw, Ermineskin and Whitefish First Nations are among those looking to intervene

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau provides an update on the COVID-19 pandemic from Rideau Cottage in Ottawa on Tuesday, Jan. 11, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau provides an update on the COVID-19 pandemic from Rideau Cottage in Ottawa on Tuesday, Jan. 11, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Trudeau vows to keep up the fight to sway U.S. on merits of Keystone XL pipeline

Canada’s pitch to the Biden team has framed Keystone XL as a more environmentally friendly project than original

Most Read