YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) — All Antanasia Crockett thought about that Sunday night in October was getting away from the gunfire.
She was driving back to her home after visiting an aunt on the South Side when she got caught in the crossfire of two groups of cars firing at each other at Market Street and East Florida Avenue.
She’s afraid now, but then she wasn’t. There was no time for fear. She only had one thought: “I just pressed the gas,” she said.
In fact, she didn’t even realize she had been shot — by an AK-47 round, no less, until she stopped at Jordan’s Market at Market and Cleveland to speak to a city police officer. He told her she was shot.
“I fell out of the car and he said, ‘you’re shot,'” Antanasia said.
She was still in shock when she was placed into the ambulance. The one thought that kept running through her mind: “I couldn’t believe someone shot me.”
Her story is typical of most people who either live in a neighborhood where gun violence is common or who happen through no fault of their own to come into contact with gun violence.
Police collected almost 50 shell casings in the street that night Antanasia was wounded. The lead detective on her case said she either drove through a shootout or was hit by accident. Either way, the detective said, she was not a target of the gunfire.
In Youngstown, though, there were been a lot of bullets flying around in 2020, hitting a lot of people, as well as houses, cars and businesses. The city ended 2020 with 98 people shot, including 27 of the city’s 28 homicide victims.
Police say one of the prime movers of the violence is people who are barred from owning a firearm because of a past criminal conviction having one anyway. They credited a crackdown on gun crimes in 2019, including a spotlight on people who are not allowed to have guns, from lowering the homicide rate from 28 to 20.
Former Youngstown Police Chief Robin Lees was behind a bill that would increase penalties for people who are caught with guns after they are barred from having them. He testified before the state legislature in favor of it, but the bill stalled in the statehouse this year. Currently, the charge is legally known as having a weapon while under disability, a third-degree felony. The maximum penalty is a three-year prison term.
The disability is a previous felony conviction that prohibits a person from owning a gun.
City police for years have said that too many people convicted of the crime in Mahoning County Common Pleas Court get probation. A study of court records show that of 264 people who had the charge bound over to common pleas court, less than half received a prison sentence locally.
In fact, 123 received a prison sentence, 76 probation, and 49 had their cases dismissed, often to be heard instead in federal court, where the penalties are far greater and parole is almost non-existent.
Since an October that saw 19 people shot, three fatally, police have ramped up extra patrols, almost all on the South Side, looking for gun offenders. Before the patrols, police charged just 20 people with weapons under disability as of Oct. 19; after the patrols began, police have charged 12 people with that crime and an additional 23 others for other gun crimes.
The patrols are also designed to be a deterrence to the shootings that have plagued the city throughout 2020. Calls for gunfire are common, which often lead to not just people, but homes and cars also being shot up.
Again, most of these calls are on the South Side and a few streets have been magnets for gunfire this year, with West Boston, East Evergreen and East Lucius avenues among the hot spots for gunfire.
A person who lives in a gunfire hotspot, who did not want to give his name because he was afraid he would be a target, said there is not much they can do in their house because of their fear of gunfire.
“We set up a room in the basement,” the person said. “We watch TV in the basement because the bullets fly through the house. We live in the basement.”
There is also the hassle of repairing bullet damage, such as holes in the windows or other parts of the house, the person said.
The person said they want to move, but with times being the way they are, just packing up and going isn’t that easy.
“We want to sell our house,” the person said. “But with this coronavirus going around, we can’t sell a house in Youngstown.”
A common theme for those who are arrested for not being allowed to have a gun is often when they are arrested, they are not committing another crime. They are mostly caught during a traffic stop when a car they are in is pulled over for a traffic violation.
Often, those caught with a gun who are not allowed to have one say they need a gun because they have been shot before or they know there are people out to get them and they need it for protection.
Edward Lightning, 37, of Shehy Street, was sentenced to 10 years in prison, the maximum, in 2019 after he pleaded guilty in federal court to being a felon in possession of a firearm after a long string of firearm-related crimes dating back to when he was 14. The sentence was later overturned on appeal and remanded back to the U.S. Northern District Court of Ohio for resentencing. It was his seventh weapons charge.
But in his sentencing hearing, according to court records, Lightning told a judge he only had a gun with him because he had been shot before and he had testified against others, and he needed the gun in case they wanted revenge.
“Sir, I’ve been shot,” Lightning told U.S. Judge John R. Adams at his sentencing. “Like, I understand some stuff. I’ve been shot. I testified on people in court…I wasn’t out there carrying no gun to hurt anybody. I was robbing nobody. I was just trying to protect myself…I was just basically protecting myself, and I know I’m not allowed to be around no guns, but it would be a horror like being in my area, when people riding around with assault rifles, people just shooting with assault rifles. It just be horrors, your honor. I ain’t got no excuse for it. I shouldn’t have did it [sic].”
The lawyer for Dominique Callier, 28, told a federal judge in a sentencing memorandum that Callier told police he needed a gun to protect himself from his enemies. Callier was sentenced to a federal prison term in December 2019 after being arrested by city police for having a gun at a South Side nightclub.
Callier is not allowed to have a gun because of convictions in 2011 for felonious assault and 2009 for a shooting that injured two people. He had served five years in prison before he was released.
Callier grew up in a rough neighborhood, was abandoned by his mother, and his father was in prison when he was just 2, the memorandum said. The circumstances forced Callier to fend for himself, which led to him getting in trouble.
At the time of his arrest, he had spent just four months since he was 17 out of prison, the memorandum said.
Callier was ultimately sentenced to 70 months in prison.
Airki Talbott, 31, of Campbell, told a judge just before he was sentenced to 37 months in prison in November of 2019 that he also needed a gun for protection. Talbott was arrested by Youngstown police in March of 2019 after a car and foot chase.
Talbott said in court because of where he lives and his reputation, he needs a gun for protection. He served a prison sentence as an adult after he was convicted as a juvenile of an aggravated robbery in Mahoning County Common Pleas Court. When asked why he doesn’t just move, Talbott told U.S. Judge Benita Y. Pearson he had anxiety about being in a new place around people he would not know, but he acknowledged if he did, he would probably stay out of trouble.
But none of that can apply to Antanasia, a former Chaney High basketball standout who was hoping to walk on to a college team to further her basketball career. That dream is on hold now because of the 7.62mm round that shattered a bone in her leg below the knee.
“I want to play basketball again,” she said. “I love basketball.”
She also sings and raps and she says she has a rap about the night she got shot.
Being wounded has opened up a whole bunch of feelings Antanasia said she never had. Although she sounds upbeat on the phone, she said she has been dealing with depression since the night she was wounded.
She is afraid to drive again, and even if she wanted to, her car was damaged by the gunfire and it hasn’t been repaired yet.
One of the most common feelings she said she has is disbelief.
“Still, to this day, it’s shocking to me,” Antanasia said. “I’m like, ‘dang, I’m not like that.'”