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‘Sickening and unimaginable’ mass shooting in Cincinnati leaves 11-year-old dead, 5 others

CINCINNATI — Cincinnati officials are expressing outrage and horror at a drive-by shooting that sent more than a score of bullets into a crowd of children, killing an 11-year-old boy and striking four other children and an adult.

The victims were near an intersection Friday night when an occupant of a dark sedan fired 22 rounds in quick succession, Police Chief Terri Theetge told reporters Sunday. Hit were boys aged 11, 12, 13, and 15; and a 15-year-old girl; and a 53-year-old woman. One victim remained hospitalized in stable condition.

Two of the children attended Cincinnati Preparatory Academy, including the boy who was killed. The other three attended Cincinnati public schools. One of the injured victims remains hospitalized in stable condition, while the others have been discharged.

Cincinnati Mayor Aftab Pureval, who called the shooting “sickening and unimaginable,” said the kids were playing outside when the shots rang out on the city’s West End. The scene is just a short walk from a daycare, a girls’ dance studio, and a playground.    

“Twenty-two rounds were fired,” Pureval said. “Twenty-two rounds in a moment — into a crowd of kids. No time to respond. No time to react.”

Officials have not released any information about a suspect, nor have they said whether the shooting was targeted. 

The shooting is the latest incident in a wave of gun violence occurring across the country. As of late Sunday, there have been 596 mass shootings in the U.S. this year, according to the Gun Violence Archive. More than 1,200 teens (ages 12-17) have been killed and 3,400 injured in 2023, according to the archive. More than 250 children (ages 11 and younger) were killed and nearly 570 injured. 

‘Violence like this cannot be our status quo’

“This is not an act of God; this is not a natural disaster. The devastation, the harm and the loss of life are a shock to us all, but they stem from actions of real people and they (are) enabled by access to guns,” City Manager Sheryl Long told reporters, at times holding back tears, during a Sunday afternoon press conference.

“Violence like this cannot be our status quo,” Long said, adding that she has also lost family to gun violence. 

In response to Friday’s shooting, Cincinnati police intend to expand the presence of uniformed and non-uniformed officers in the West End in addition to the use of cameras, Theetge said. 

A team of social workers is also mobilizing to offer support to West End residents. Long said the city would also send personnel to Hays-Porter Elementary, Taft High School, and Cincinnati College Preparatory Academy on Monday.

Prior to Friday’s shootings, two teens, ages 16 and 14 had been shot in the West End neighborhood. Another 30 adults have been shot there this year, according to Cincinnati police data. The neighborhood had already seen three homicides so far in 2023.  

Long said the neighborhood has experienced “disproportionately high” levels of gun violence, but the city’s efforts to combat violence there – including a months-long investigation into a concentrated area of crime on Livingston and John streets that led to the closure of a liquor store – have led to some results.

A father’s plea for information

Given the city’s rise in shootings involving teens, police have begun specifically tracking child homicide statistics, Pureval said, citing access to guns and inadequate conflict resolution as the causes of such violence. 

He said 40% of the illegal weapons on Cincinnati’s streets are taken from cars. City officials have made repeated calls for gun owners to lock up their firearms to prevent such weapons from being stolen and used in crimes. 

“The inclination to reach for deadly force immediately, no matter how small the incident is, is overwhelming,” the mayor said. “The gun violence we are seeing is no longer concentrated in one neighborhood or concentrated around the drug trade. Because of the universal accessibility of guns, it is everywhere, particularly amongst our kids.” 

While officials have yet to identify the boy killed, Issac Davis, his father, made a plea for anyone with information about the child’s death to come forward. 

“When will this stop? Will this ever stop?” he asked. “Like how many people have to bury their kids, their babies, their loved ones?”

The investigation by the Cincinnati Police Department’s homicide unit is ongoing. Anyone with information is urged to call investigators at 513-352-3542. 

Contributing: Charles Ventura, USA TODAY; The Associated Press

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