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OTR mass shooting injures 9: 'I've witnessed non-stop shootings. None of us can sleep'

Cincinnati Enquirer logo Cincinnati Enquirer 8/8/2022 Cameron Knight, Erin Couch, Quinlan Bentley and Cheryl Vari, Cincinnati Enquirer
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Nine people were wounded when a shooting exploded in a crowd in Cincinnati's Over-the-Rhine early Sunday morning, police said.

Police have not made any arrests, but said they are searching for "at least two" people who fired weapons during the incident.

All of the people who were shot were treated and released from the University of Cincinnati Medical Center on Sunday. The names of the injured have not been released. Officials said they range in age from 24 to 47, eight are men and one is a woman.

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"I thank God there were no fatalities," Mayor Aftab Pureval said at a press conference Sunday.

Pureval credited the quick response of police who were already at the scene, including the officer who fired his weapon at one of the suspected shooters.

"Our police officer responded with heroic and immediate action," the mayor said.

Lt. Col. Mike John said it is unclear if any of the suspects were among the nine wounded but encouraged anyone with information about what happened to report it to police.

What happened

The corner of Main Street and Woodward is in the heart of Over-the-Rhine's entertainment district. There are dozens of bars, restaurants and clubs in the area. Thousands of people come to the neighborhood every weekend.

Police said that just after 1:30 a.m. officers assigned to the Civil Disturbance Response Team came to the corner to disperse a large crowd. While officers were at the scene, shots rang out. John said surveillance video showed a physical altercation in the crowd and then a suspect firing into it.

VIDEO: Cincinnati shooting: Security camera footage shows people running, sound of gunshots

Cincinnati Police Officer Joseph Shook fired one round at one of the shooting suspects who then fled, John said. After that suspect fled toward Zeigler Park, and more shots were heard coming from the south on Main Street leading police to believe at least two people fired.

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Shook joined the police department in 2016, John said. 

"He acted immediately," John said. "He ran toward gunfire."

John said his actions and the actions of other first responders saved lives.

In the immediate aftermath of the shooting, the large crowd remained and police were struggling to make way for medics, John said.

Some officers used "bang balls," loud explosives that are rolled on the ground, to move the crowd back quickly, John said. Other officers found people who had been shot and started rendering first aid. In recent years, officers have been carrying tourniquets for situations just like this, and John said several were used by officers on Main Street.

Calling for accountability

Cincinnati City Councilman Scotty Johnson is a former police officer. He spoke to the press Sunday.

He said a small number of people cannot seem to solve their problems or disputes without reaching for a gun. Johnson said the people and business owners in Over-the-Rhine do not deserve to become victims due to these individuals' "ridiculous beefs."

"We want everyone to come Downtown and have a good time," he said. "You are making it unsafe for everyone. You're not going to get away with it."

He called for "personal accountability." He said people need to find better ways to settle their arguments and anyone who knows anything about what happened should come forward to police with the information.

"We are a better city than this," Johnson said.

What's next

The police department had seen things changing on Main Street and was already taking action, John said.

John said patrols in the area were increased over the past month due to more large crowds forming on Main Street. He said staffing has not been an issue and the city has been "generous" with its budget for overtime.

Pureval said the city will keep exploring options to expand conflict resolution programs and has already funded new police recruit classes.

A bullet shatters a window on Main Street at 13th in Over-the-Rhine, Sunday, August 7, 2022. Overnight, there was a mass shooting leaving nine people injured. The shooting started at Mr. PitifulÕ', just across the street. © Liz Dufour/Cincinnati Enquirer A bullet shatters a window on Main Street at 13th in Over-the-Rhine, Sunday, August 7, 2022. Overnight, there was a mass shooting leaving nine people injured. The shooting started at Mr. PitifulÕ', just across the street.

The mayor said more and more of the gun violence in the city is not centered around drug trafficking, which is a big shift from the past.

Recently high-profile shootings like the killing in the parking lot of an Oakley Target, the shooting at Smale Park on July 4, 2021, and a shooting in Grant Park the year before all stemmed from personal disputes, according to police.

"The gun violence is so inappropriate," Pureval said. "People can't solve their difference without reaching for a gun."

He said the prevalence of guns in the community is contributing to the problem and said better mental health resources and conflict resolution training are needed.

"We need people to call the police when they're having a disagreement," he said.

Pureval said that Cincinnati is not alone in this "devasting trend."

"This is all across the country," he said.

'None of us can sleep'

The shooting is Greater Cincinnati's fourth mass shooting of 2022.

The FBI defines a mass shooting as any shooting with four or more victims.

The shooting near Main and 13th streets had more casualties than any shooting in the city since the Cameo nightclub shooting in 2017. In that incident, two people died and 17 people were injured at the East End club.

There have been 18 people shot in Over-the-Rhine so far this year, of those, 17 survived. There was a double shooting in June in the same block as Sunday's shooting, and a triple shooting in the 1700 block of Vine Street earlier this month.

A woman looks for her shoes that were left on Main Street at 13th in Over-the-Rhine, Sunday, August 7, 2022. Overnight, there was a mass shooting leaving nine people injured. The shooting started at Mr. Pitiful's. © Liz Dufour/Cincinnati Enquirer A woman looks for her shoes that were left on Main Street at 13th in Over-the-Rhine, Sunday, August 7, 2022. Overnight, there was a mass shooting leaving nine people injured. The shooting started at Mr. Pitiful's.

Lindsey Swadner owns The Hub at 12th and Main streets. She said her employees and neighbors are traumatized.

"I've witnessed non-stop shootings," Swadner said. "None of us can sleep."

She said she's even had a gun pulled on her when she asked someone to leave the property.

She said bartenders and employees in Over-the-Rhine need counseling and mental health support after the things they've witnessed. Swadner praised City Council for being responsive and listening, and acknowledged that police can respond to crime, but not necessarily prevent it.

"I'm on the other end of it ... trying to make sure my bartenders aren't sobbing hysterically and freaking out about whether it's safe to go home," Swadner said. 

"I don't know if I'll open," she said. "Putting my bartenders in that position when they just saw a mass shooting ... is kind of horrible."

This article originally appeared on Cincinnati Enquirer: OTR mass shooting injures 9: 'I've witnessed non-stop shootings. None of us can sleep'

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