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Violent June in Columbus saw increase in homicides, gun violence, juveniles shot

The Columbus Dispatch logo The Columbus Dispatch 7/2/2020 Bethany Bruner
a police car parked in front of a house: Columbus police vehicles and crime scene tape block off a homicide scene in South Linden in 2018. [Patrick Cooley/Dispatch file photo] © Provided by The Columbus Dispatch Columbus police vehicles and crime scene tape block off a homicide scene in South Linden in 2018. [Patrick Cooley/Dispatch file photo]

A violent June has put Columbus on pace for one of the deadliest years in recent history.

The city had 14 homicides in the month of June, an increase of 40% over the 10 homicides that occurred in June 2019 and a 100% increase over the seven homicides in June 2018.

There were 58 homicides in the city in the first six months of 2020, an increase over both the first halves of 2018 and 2019, when there were 54 and 57 homicides, respectively.

The city's current homicide total puts Columbus on pace for a total of about 116 homicides in 2020 — well above the 105 homicides in both 2018 and 2019 — but short of the record-high 143 homicides in 2017.

"We're doing our best and using every resource to make sure the citizens of Columbus remain safe," Columbus police Cmdr. Elrico Alli said at a news conference last week.

The above data does not include at least 35 deaths tied to former Mount Carmel Health system Dr. William Husel, who has been charged with murder in 25 cases which are classified as homicides. Those cases were added to the yearly totals when the investigation by Columbus cold case homicide detectives began in 2019.

Of the 14 homicides in June 2020, 50% involved a victim who was under the age of 25. Two of the victims and two of the suspects in cases where a suspect has been identified were under the age of 18.

So far in 2020, nine juveniles have been killed, accounting for nearly 16% of the city's total. That's also an increase from both 2018 and 2019.

In 2018, there was only one person under the age of 18 killed in the first six months of the year. In 2019, there were three homicides in the first half of the year in which the victim was a juvenile.

Alli said every homicide is a tragedy, but those involving children are especially tragic.

"We want to encourage the families and parents in our city to stay close to their children," he said. "Keep your children safe and keep your children at home."

Columbus police said there has also been a significant increase in the number of assaults involving a firearm that detectives are investigating.

Felony assault detectives, who investigate shots being fired into homes, shootings in which a person was injured and assaults on police officers, have handled 884 cases as of June 26, an increase of 69% — 361 cases — over the previous year.

Of those 884 cases, nearly 76% involved a firearm, according to police data.

Columbus police have also seen an increase of 244% in the number of instances in which a person has been shot or shot at in the first six months of 2020.

As of June 25, detectives had investigated 117 instances of a person being shot or shot at. For the same time frame in 2019, there were 34 instances, and in 2018, there were 49 investigations.

Information available through press releases issued by the division show at least 34 reports have been made of a person who was shot or shot at since June 1. Of those 34 reports, four involved juveniles.

One of those juveniles was 14-year-old Nysier Terry. According to a release from Columbus police, Terry was one of two teens shot at on the 400 block of Nelson Road, on the city's Near East Side, around 4:40 p.m. June 8. Terry was not struck, but a gunshot did hit another teen with him, 16-year-old Kenneth Hairston.

Hairston had also been shot at May 31, in the area of Holt and Brentnell Avenues on the city's Northeast Side. A 13-year-old girl was also shot in that incident.

On June 24, Terry was found shot around 9:20 p.m. in the area of Loretta and Medina avenues. He died at a Columbus hospital a short time later. Two teenagers, a 15-year-old and a 16-year-old, are facing delinquency charges of murder in connection with the fatal shooting.

Police said Terry was in a car with the two suspects when they began firing at a group of teens outside the car. One of the bullets fired inside the car — which was determined to be stolen — struck Terry, who was then left on the road while the vehicle left.

Mayor Andrew J. Ginther has said the city knew it would be a difficult summer, with many programs canceled or being held virtually due to the coronavirus.

He said last Saturday that Columbus can't police its way out of this situation and community efforts like public health and recreation initiatives will be crucial to help the city stay safe.

bbruner@dispatch.com

@bethany_bruner

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