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Middletown officials reaching out to stop shootings

A group of Middletown city and community leaders met Wednesday to discuss the rash of shootings that has plagued the city for more than a week.

Their goal remains to get everyone to put down their guns and stop the shooting of people, homes and property.

Police Chief Rodney Muterspaw said that over the eight-day period, there have been seven shootings in four separate incidents with 50 rounds being fired. Two people were arrested earlier on Wednesday and Muterspaw said arrest warrants have been signed for two more people.

“This is out of control. … This is not normal for Middletown,” Muterspaw told the media following the meeting. “This is not about the city and the police department. It’s about the community…. The message is ‘put your guns down.’”

He said the uptick in the black-on-black violence is the result of two groups who are feuding. Muterspaw said the cases are under investigation, some of which are drug-related and involve young Middletown people ages 18 to 24. He did not elaborate on the suspects but said some did have criminal histories.

Muterspaw used the meeting to reach out to some ministers and informal leaders who have influence.

The Rev. Michael Bailey, a local minister and a police chaplain, 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.

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 the 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 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.

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 their arrests 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.”

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

On Wednesday, police announced arrests 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.

Reporters Rick McCrabb and Lauren Pack contributed to this report.

Help stop the gun violence

Anyone with information is asked to call Lt. James Cunningham at 513-425-7737.

Local leaders willing to listen

Three community leaders are willing to listen to help stop the gun violence.

Contact the Rev. Michael Bailey at 513-422-6223; Steven Hartman at 513-267-9129; and the Rev. Mark Monroe at 513-334-7570.

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