Kettering police said they will pursue felony charges against four Fairmont High School students after a fellow classmate — and an “innocent bystander” — was shot in the head in a ongoing feud involving other students.
Ronnie Bowers’ mother, Jessica Combs, told this news outlet Monday that she was “not sure if he’ll pull through or not. But if he does he’ll have long-term brain damage. He was just trying to leave the argument.”
Kettering Police Chief Christopher Protsman, at a news conference Monday afternoon, said they will meet today with the Montgomery County Prosecutor’s Office seeking to charge the four male suspects — one 18-year-old, two 16-year-olds and one 15-year-old — with felonious assault and other charges.
Protsman said the shooting — Kettering’s first this year — was part of an ongoing dispute between two groups of people that continued at Alter Fest at Alter High School Sunday night. He said one group of students left the festival to avoid a conflict, and the second group followed, blocking a sedan driven by the victim.
When Bowers tried to drive away, shots were fired and he was hit once in the back of the head at about 9 p.m. Sunday in the 800 block of Willowdale Avenue near Ackerman Boulevard. Kettering police have not released the victim’s name, but his mother identified him in a photo she released to the media.
Combs said her son had just recently celebrated his 16th birthday.
“The victim had nothing to do with this dispute, prior to this or during last night. He was an innocent bystander who just got caught up at the wrong place.” Protsman said.
Protsman said he would not release the names of those involved, but added each of the two vehicles had four people inside at the time of the shooting. He also declined to say what the dispute was about, what additional charges may be filed or how many weapons were involved.
Friends hold vigil
More than 20 friends of the Bowers’ family attended a vigil Monday night at Oak Park near his home. Fairmont classmate Aidan Chromick said he was with Bowers shortly before the shooting.
“It’s crazy to think I could have been hanging out with him at the time and been in the car, too,” he said.
“I have no idea how I would have reacted,” Chromick added. “But I just wish it didn’t happen. Honestly, that’s all I can say — that it shouldn’t have happened to him.”
In addition to the counselors always on staff, Fairmont will bring in extra counselors today to help any students who need it, according to school spokeswoman Kari Basson.
Protsman said the victim was driving away with three friends from Alter Fest, trying avoid an escalation of “an outgoing dispute between two juveniles now for the past couple of weeks” and was later shot the back of the head.
“This is usual in Kettering. Certainly, that it is,” the chief said. “It’s a shame when you see that there’s juveniles involved in this type of activity. It’s an isolated, tragic event.”
Protsman said the Alter Fest dispute between the Fairmont students did not rise to a level requiring police involvement. The festival is “meticulous” about security, said Alter Principal Lourdes Lambert.
“Security is our utmost priority when we’re running a festival of this magnitude,” she said.
A private, bonded security firm, and off-duty Kettering police officers, firefighters and EMTS are hired each year for the four-day event, which attracts 30,000 patrons per night, she said.
“When you get that many people in one venue, you have be concerned about safety,” she said, adding that their Catholic community is praying for those involved.
Protsman said after the victim and his three friends drove away from the festival, the second group caught up with them on Ackerman Boulevard, blocked their car in a driveway and “a physical altercation” occurred prior to the shooting.
One 911 caller told dispatchers there was “a wreck or domestic violence on our street” involving teenagers chasing a girl, throwing her from the car, running over her before “she took off running,” according to tapes released to the media.
A second 911 caller said, “My friend just got shot… in the head. I’m freaking out. Please go save him. Please go save him. Please, OK, bye.”
A fourth 911 caller told the dispatcher she saw a teenager waving a gun.
Kettering detectives and officers worked through Sunday night interviewing persons of interest and witnesses, Protsman said.
Police spokesman Officer John Jung said, “there are a number of different versions on what happened.”
WHIO reporter Kate Bartley contributed to this report.