Trotwood’s 11th homicide puts murder rate near nation’s worst

City on pace for 2016 homicide rate that would top Detroit and Chicago

A 20-year-old woman became Trotwood’s 11th homicide victim of 2016 after being shot in the head while a passenger in a car driving on Salem Avenue.

Trotwood police don’t think that Jessica Wilson, of Dayton, was an intended target — unlike the city’s other 10 homicide victims this year.

Trotwood is on pace for 12 homicides in 2016, which would give them a murder rate of about 50 per 100,000 people — putting the suburb northwest of Dayton on par with some of the nation’s largest cities.

“This number is high,” Trotwood police Chief Erik Wilson said Monday. “One person is one too many. It bothers us all.”

The on-pace homicide rate of 50 per 100,000 (Trotwood’s population is about 24,000) is more than 10 times higher than what the FBI’s says was the national rate of 4.5 from 2014. It’s also higher than New Orleans (41.7), Detroit (43.8) and just below Baltimore (55.4) and St. Louis (59.3) from last year’s statistics.

“I believe our citizens out here know that they are safe and they feel safe, as I’m being told from our neighbors in our neighborhood watch program,” Chief Wilson said. “They’re not happy about this either, because it puts a stain on our community. That’s just not what we are here in Trotwood.”

Trotwood Mayor Mary A. McDonald didn’t respond to messages seeking comment, deferring to the chief about the city’s positive aspects.

Chief Wilson mentioned Stratacache picking Trotwood to house a warehouse facility, other business expansion and Trotwood-Madison High School’s chance for a state football title this weekend.

The chief said he would move some personnel around for targeted enforcement to help quell activity in problem areas. “We’re going to keep up the good fight our people in this community,” he said. “There’s a lot of good positives going on (here). … This (violence) just rips me inside.”

This past weekend, Dayton saw its 35th homicide of 2016 — not including three justified homicides — a higher yearly total than every year since 2011’s 36 with a month to go.

The website recently ranked Dayton (18.5 in 2015) and Cincinnati (22.1 in 2015) in the top 25 bigger city “murder capitals,” above cities like Chicago (17.5) and Philadelphia (17.9).

Dayton is on pace for 38 homicides in 2016, which would give the city a rate of more than 26 per 100,000. A Dayton police representative said no officials were able to comment on Monday about the homicide rate or the Saturday night shooting death of Benjamin Warner, 32, of Lebanon.

A 911 caller at 7:27 p.m. Saturday said they heard several gunshots near 155 W. Norman Ave. and that Warner’s body was found face down next to a 2005 beige Honda Civic parked behind a vacant house.

Trotwood police Capt. Dan Heath said that of the nine homicide incidents — including two double murders in February — police have presented charges in five, have a named suspect in a sixth case and are looking for suspects in the other three cases. Ten of the 11 homicides have involved guns and one was a vehicular homicide.

“Very stressful,” Heath said of 2016 for Trotwood’s police. “It’s been difficult and it requires a lot of manpower and resources, when you have this many for the size department we are.”

Trotwood’s website lists a police staff of 27 including officers, detectives, sergeants or police leadership plus three records clerks and a business accreditation manager.

Two of Trotwood’s unsolved 2016 homicides, including Wilson and victim Kenneth Atwater in June, involved victims traveling from Cognac’s nightclub in Clayton through Trotwood.

A woman was crying and frantic during a 911 call at 2:44 a.m. Sunday in which she told a dispatcher, “My best friend is shot. Can you please send somebody, please? … We were just driving down Salem and they was just shooting.”

Heath said Trotwood police are looking for the occupants of a silver Kia Sportage who fled a traffic stop and whose car ended up at an apartment complex after the Ohio State Highway Patrol deployed stop sticks.

“We don’t know if there was somebody else that was being targeted,” Heath said. “We don’t know if it was just indiscriminate shooting outside of another vehicle.”

Heath said three loaded weapons were found in the car and that police will test those weapons against the bullet that killed Jessica Wilson.

Heath also said at least two, possibly three, people exited the car as the trooper was waiting for backups. Heath said those people have not been located and that the search included no K-9 units.

“We don’t know about the suspects because we’re still trying to piece that together,” Heath said. “We don’t physically have a suspect.”

Heath said the victim’s white 2004 Chevrolet Malibu rear-ended another vehicle after the shooting, but police haven’t located that vehicle or driver.

Chief Wilson said the other 10 homicide victims in Trotwood this year knew their attackers.

“These weren’t random acts,” the chief said. “Everybody knew each everybody, was engaged with each other and activity, and obviously, tempers flare, weapons handy, that’s what you have next.”

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