Editor’s note: The above video is from WKBN’s report on the shooting in 2008.
YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) — It wasn’t even supposed to be his case, but 15 years later, city police Lt. Ramon Cox is still frustrated over the shooting death of a 16-year-old girl on the South Side.
Then a detective sergeant, Cox was called out about 10:30 p.m. June 11, 2008, to the 100 block of West Delason Avenue to investigate the fatal shooting of LaShonda Shaw, 16,
Shaw was a passenger in a car that was riddled with bullets. Her 19-year-old boyfriend was wounded in the same shooting.
Although he was in the regular on-call rotation, it wasn’t Cox’s turn to be the lead investigator. However, the person who was up to be the lead investigator was leaving on vacation shortly, so Cox was tabbed as the lead.
Not that there was much for him to go on. Newspaper accounts at the time said the car the victims were in was parked against traffic when another car pulled up and someone in that car opened fire.
Witnesses told police they heard gunshots, then the car the victims were in traveled slowly until it hit a utility pole near Mt. Calvary Church at Hillman Street and West Delason Avenue. That is where officers found them.
The late Capt. Ken Centorame, who was Chief of Detectives at the time, told a reporter for WKBN that at the time, the area was not known for violence.
“We don’t have much crime in that area by any means,” Centorame said to WKBN. “It’s not a high crime area.”
In the ’90s, that area west of Market Street was one of the city’s hot spots when a wave of violence gripped the city that saw an average of 49.5 people murdered per year.
After the millennium, however, a lot of the population moved or abandoned their houses altogether, and the drop in population led to a drop in violence.
Cox, now a patrol supervisor for the department’s afternoon turn, said there was not much to go on when he arrived. All investigators had to work with were the car, fragments of glass and shell casings.
The shooting took place after dark and a canvass of the neighborhood did not turn up much. This was before the days of cellphone or security cameras becoming widespread.
“There was nothing,” he said.
Well, there was something. The surviving victim. But no matter how much he tried, Cox said, the survivor refused to cooperate.
“I talked to him four or five times, but he would not give it up,” Cox said.
Cox said some of the times he went to question the survivor other detectives would accompany him to see if a change in tactics of personalities would make a difference. It never did.
“I damn near pleaded with the kid,” Cox said.
The lack of evidence and cooperation from the sole eyewitness put the case at a dead end before it almost even started.
“It was almost unworkable,” Cox said.
According to a story in the Sharon Herald a few days after her death, LaShonda was living with an adoptive grandmother across the border in Hermitage, Pa.
She was getting good grades in an alternative education program in Sharon but left home the Christmas before she died to be with the person who was wounded in the same shooting that killed her, according to the story in the Herald.
A cousin said she and LaShonda were “like best friends” and they would style each other’s hair and dance.
Cox said even almost 15 years out the case is one that still elicits strong emotions — something that doesn’t go away even if you have a vacation.
As Centorame said to WKBN: “It’s hard to realize what a motive may be for killing a young, 16-year-old girl.”
This story is part of a series of cold cases that WKBN is examining.
Anyone with information on the July 11, 2008, murder of LaShonda Shaw can call the Youngstown Police Department Detective Bureau at 330-742-8911 or CrimeStoppers Youngstown at 330-746-CLUE.