Thursday night in Dayton, Mayor Nan Whaley, Dayton Police Chief Richard Biehl, and members of the Community Police Council held a Community Conversation on Gun Violence at Grace United Methodist Church. More than a hundred concerned residents, civic leaders, and others joined the panelists for the two-hour event.
“Shots being fired, hearing gunfire at our house is normal,” said Scott Sliver, a member of the Community Police Council. Sliver said it was the normalcy of that gunfire that lead him to join the council.
Others in attendance shared similar stories, however, the conversation went beyond gun violence. Race, poverty, mental health, police corruption and other issues were put on the table by residents who came to share their many concerns, some even saying they were tired of just talking about problems that were decades old and demanded action.
“We have to deal with poverty in this community,” said Community Police Council member, Natasha Spears. “If we choose not to, we will continue to have these meetings and the people who we are talking about will continue to not be represented.”
After the forum, Mayor Whaley said she understood the frustration felt over what some perceived as a flawed system.
“That's the work of community building, right? And I think what's most impressive about our community is we're able to have honest conversations, and we don't shy away from those. And, we may not all agree on how to go after the issue, but we all agree that we need to move forward and I think that's what really matters.”
While the mass shooting in Dayton’s Oregon District was talked about, a good portion of the conversation Thursday evening centered around the deaths of two 17-year-old boys, killed in on August 28, 2019.
Javier Harrison and Devin Henderson were shot by a homeowner in the 800 block of Conners Street. The man, who called 911 immediately after the shooting, said the two boys, and a third person, were found inside his detached garage.
The Mayor stood by comments she made this week after she characterized the shooting as a murder.
“It's a sad commentatary on how we on how we treat life,” said Whaley. “We have systems in place that a lot of, as you saw today, a lot of our communities don't think they're going to get a fair shot, and I understand that. I think for these families of these of these young men, it is heartbreaking for our community that we lost two 17-year-olds last week.”
Chief Biehl said the incident was still being investigated and that once all the facts were known, it would be up to the prosecutor to decide whether or not to move forward with any charges against the homeowner.
As the meeting ended, Community Police Council members said they would consider all the issues that were discussed Thursday night as they continue to work with the police on the issue of gun violence.
Mayor Whaley said she would be traveling to Washington D.C. next week to talk to senate Democrats about further gun control measures.