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NEW DETAILS: Fairgrounds purchase approved

Middletown police chief: Shootings have to stop

UPDATE: 3:42 p.m.: The Rev. Michael Bailey, a local minister, said he believes that poverty is at the core of the recent Middletown shooting violence, and there is a need for good-paying jobs and a need for some to complete their education.

He said some young people are resorting to violence to address their anger.

Bailey and others offered their phone numbers for people to call them, in confidence, to talk to them about their issues. His number is 513-422-6223.

“We just want to stop the shootings,” he said.

Middletown Police Chief Rodney Muterspaw said there have been seven shootings in four separate incidents where 50 rounds have been fired at people, homes and property over eight days. Two people have been arrested and arrest warrants have been signed for two more people.

Steven Hartman, who grew up in a housing project but is now the owner of Dedicate Motivate Fitness, also offered his number, 513-267-9129, as he’s willing to listen as well.

“I could have went that way,” Hartman said.

He praised Muterspaw on his willingness to listen to him when he was a younger man.

“I want to do the same thing to stop the shooting,” Hartman said.

Mark Monroe, who is the president of the Middletown Ministerial Association, agreed with Muterspaw that wave of shootings is not the norm in Middletown.

“This is not reflective of the hearts of the people who live in Middletown,” he said.

He also praised Muterspaw and City Manager Doug Adkins for being proactive in community relations and in community policing. Monroe said there is a need to reach out to white pastors to help get people to stop the shootings. He also offered his number if people wanted to talk to him confidence - 513-334-7570.

Vice Mayor Dora Bronston, who is also president of the NAACP’s Middletown Branch, said her organization has worked closely with the police department over the years and has encouraged people to stand together.

Muterspaw said he meets periodically with people who have influence in the community to discuss issues and who in turn can talk to their congregants, etc.

Bronston said there is a need to bring blacks and whites together as well as to stop crime and racism, and she is supportive of the city’s efforts.

Bronston, a minister, said she plans to meet with the two men who are in jail after they were arrested in the shootings in an effort to reach out.

Bailey said a community meeting is being tentatively set for 9 a.m. Saturday at the Robert “Sonny” Hill Community Center on Lafayette Avenue.

“This is a crisis and we need to respond,” Bailey said. “We’re not that far behind the 8-ball, but we need a strategy to get everyone together to address the issue.”

UPDATE: 3:16 p.m.: Middletown’s police chief met Wednesday afternoon with a group of influential ministers, businessmen and city officials to discuss the onslaught of shootings over the past few weeks and to send the message to stop the shootings.

Chief Rodney Muterspaw said there have been seven shootings in four separate incidents where 50 rounds have been fired at people, homes and property over eight days. Two people have been arrested and arrest warrants have been signed for two more people.

“This is out of control,” he said. “We’ve had shootings before.”

Muterspaw reached out to several influential members of the city’s African American community to reach out to their customers and congregants to share the message to put the guns down.

He said that some of the shootings are related and remain under investigation. He did say it was two groups of young Middletown people ages 18 to 24 that have been feuding. Muterspaw did not describe the groups as gangs.

Muterspaw said police have a task force out to monitor the bars and various areas of the city, adding there is” zero tolerance.”

UPDATE: 10:30 a.m.: Middletown police have announced officers arrested and charged more people in a series of shooting incidents.

Davante Whitaker, 21, Middletown, was charged with two counts of felonious assault, having weapons under a disability, carrying a concealed weapon, possessing a firearm in a liquor establishment, after he allegedly shot Thomas Wilkerson yesterday at Charles and North outside of Bar Boca. Another unnamed suspect is under investigation.

Wilkerson was shot multiple times and remains in critical condition at Miami Valley Hospital.

Police also charged Kennan Hutchinson, 19, with obstructing official business and discharging a firearm within city limits after he allegedly shot himself in the leg on Brown Street Nov. 22. He allegedly told police he was shot in a drive-by. Two of his friends, Ray Davis, 19 and Anthony Jennings, 19, were also charged with obstructing official business.

UPDATE, 10 a.m.: Middletown police have arrested a suspect in one of at least four shootings that occurred in the city since late November.

Darquan Barefield, 23, Middletown, was arrested last night at a house on Waite Street, where detectives recovered drugs and two loaded handguns. Barefield was booked in Middletown City Jail on warrants for two counts of felonious assault, discharging a firearm within city limits and carrying a concealed weapon. Additional charges are pending against Barefield.

Both victims suffered non-life threatening wounds.

Barefield is charged in connection with a double shooting at about 9:40 p.m. Nov. 19 in the parking lot of Third Base Cafe, 911 Crawford St., the shooting involved a patron of the bar and the altercation occurred in the business’s parking lot, according to Assistant Police Chief Mark Hoffman.

About two hours after the shooting at Third Base Cafe, three people were shot about 1.5 miles away in the 300 block of Park Street, according to a police report.

EARLIER: With at least four shootings in the city in less than one week, Middletown police said Tuesday officers were searching to see if there was a “trigger” that might have sparked the gun violence.

The latest shooting occurred Tuesday morning at the corner of Charles Street and North Street and left a 22-year-old Middletown man in critical condition, police said. One neighbor, who was asleep at the time, said he heard 30 shots fired.

When officers were called to the area around 2:30 a.m., they found Thomas Wilkerson had been shot twice. He was transported to Miami Valley Hospital in Dayton. Hospital officials said Wilkerson was a patient there, but they refused to release his condition.

Hoffman said the department hasn’t “ruled out” that the shootings may somehow be connected. He said the department is following leads, and anyone with information is asked to call Lt. James Cunningham at 513-425-7737.

Hoffman said he believes the shooting occurred after patrons left the Bar Boca minutes before. The bar opened about 10 days ago after the previous bar, Miller’s Lounge, was closed because it became a nuisance.

But Tuesday afternoon, a man working in the bar said there was no disturbances there before the shooting and the bar closed without incident. He didn’t believe the shooting happened outside the bar, but rather down the street.

A neighbor’s surveillance camera showed a different story. Ronnie Perkins, who lives on Charles Street, showed police officers a copy of his dark footage that shows several people gathering at the corner of Charles and North. There appears to be a fight in the street, then several rounds are fired.

After watching the video several times, Perkins said after the street disturbance “all hell broke loose.” He said a car parked across the street was hit several times, then towed away, but his car, parked on North Street, wasn’t hit.

He said if there continues to be trouble outside the bar, he will lead a charge to get it closed.

“We don’t need that around here,” he said.

Officers also found a home at the 800 block of 9th Avenue had been struck by bullets. It’s not yet known if the two incidents are related; however, this call came in at 2:48 a.m., police said.

Since Nov. 19, there have been four shootings in the city, police said.

A shooting Nov. 20 in the 1500 block of Brown Street was not related to the previous night’s shootings, Hoffman said.

Staff Writer Lauren Pack contributed to this report.

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