YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) — August 2021 might be like no other month the city has ever seen.
And the slightly over 24-hour period on Aug. 17-18 may best sum up the month. During that time period, from about 8:55 p.m. Aug. 17 to 9:12 p.m. Aug. 18, 11 people were shot in five separate shootings that saw two people killed and nine wounded.
Included in that tally was a series of shootings that began about 2:22 a.m. Aug. 18, where a man driving a pickup truck was killed and his passenger wounded at South and Palmer avenues. About five minutes later, police began getting calls that several other people were wounded in a shooting in the 600 block of Samuel Avenue. By the time the confusion cleared, a 10-year-old girl was found shot to death inside the home and three others outside were wounded.
Police say the two homicides are linked but they won’t say how other than detectives are looking for a maroon SUV that witnesses saw at both crime scenes.
Both homicides are unsolved, despite a $15,000 reward for information leading to an arrest and conviction in the death of Persayus Davis-May, 10.
But even before those two shootings, officers were trying to catch their breath after three people who were wounded in two separate shootings arrived at St. Elizabeth Health Center Aug. 17 by private vehicle.
City police were in the midst of a month that had seen 30 people shot while also dealing with a manpower shortage in the patrol ranks that was so acute that almost all officers working other units or assignments were reassigned to patrol and several times they were mandated to work double shifts.
Using police reports, interviews and 911 recordings, WKBN has attempted to recreate those hectic two nights, when residents calling in gunfire were almost universal in saying how they heard gunshots and flattened themselves and their children on their floors, their frustration coming through as they talk to 911 call takers.
Also during those early morning hours when Davis-May and Michael Callahan, 40, were killed, the people largely behind the scenes, the call takers, a longtime police officer and midnight turn dispatcher Michael Brindisi, and the road supervisor that evening, Detective Sgt. Chris Staley, are confronted with a rapidly changing situation and must allocate officers and other resources to multiple crime scenes while also trying to get information from hysterical, often frightened people so they could better deploy those resources as soon as possible.
The story begins at 8:56 p.m., Aug. 17, when police are advised by St. Elizabeth Health Center a gunshot victim has arrived in the emergency room of the main hospital on Belmont Avenue.
8:56 P.M.: WALK-IN GUNSHOT VICTIM AT St. E’s
Once Brindisi, who declined to comment for this story, is informed that a shooting victim has arrived at the ER, he dispatches the two north side cars, 103 and 105, to go to the hospital to attempt to speak to the victim and look for any evidence in his car. Hospital police were already holding the car, a KIA, for city police.
Officer Jeshalia Dunkle in Car 105 gets the temporary tag of the KIA and relays it to Brindisi. As she does so, Officer Mike Quinn in Car 109, the downtown car, calls in that he is also on his way to the hospital on Belmont Avenue, and a car in front of him is running red light after red light.
“I’m not going to stop them because they may have another victim,” Quinn said on the radio.
Quinn, a Campbell native who has been on the department for 15 years, said in the past he has run into cars in similar situations on their way to the hospital, often with the flashers on, so he doesn’t pull them over. He stays behind and puts on his lights and sirens so they have a clear path to the ER.
“It’s better to follow them with the lights and sirens because you can be quicker, and you don’t want to pull someone over who may need medical attention because that slows down their time to be treated,” he said.
About a minute later Dunkle calls in and says she is not having much luck getting the person who was wounded to talk.
“All they know is it happened on Market Street,” Dunkle said. “We’re trying to get a better location.”
Dunkle, who joined the department six and a half years ago after growing up on the south side because she said she wanted to be part of the change needed in the city, said it is a delicate balancing act trying to get information from someone with bullet holes in them while in excruciating pain.
“I’m trying to tell them I just want information and to make it clear I do care about them,” the mother of two said.
Staley arrives at the hospital and says more cars will be needed because of other cars connected to the shooting pouring into the parking lot and the emergency room. Brindisi orders all the cars that had just come on for midnight turn to go to the hospital except for the cars on the south side.
A few minutes later Quinn finds out an exact location for the shooting and relays that back to Brindisi: Market and East Chalmers. The car was heading downtown when the shots were fired, so Quinn says the crime scene should be on the east side of the street. One of the south side cars is sent there by Brindisi and finds a scene.
“Your scene is going to be here,” the officer says. “There’re shell casings all over the street.”
Quinn said he has a rapport with the family of the victim and they know Quinn can be trusted. That rapport was built up over several years on the street working his beat, Quinn said.
“Somebody there knew me and could vouch for me and they got him [the victim] to calm down enough to talk to me,” Quinn said.
About 20 minutes later, Staley says the scene is cleared at Market and East Chalmers, and traffic for the shooting is over. Although call logs do not say, there were two people wounded in that shooting.
9:33 P.M.: GUNFIRE AT DUPONT AND HAMMAKER, WALK-IN AT St. E’s
The woman in the 200 block of Dupont Street calling 911 seemed exasperated.
“They shootin’ so bad outside right now,” the woman tells the call taker.
“How many shots did you hear?”
“I heard about 10 or 15.” The woman adds she heard a car. She is asked if she saw the car.
“No, because I’m not looking out the window because I had to get my kids on the ground.”
Almost immediately, a man on Robinwood Avenue calls and speaks to a different call taker.
“There’re gunshots going off all over the place,” he says.
“Do you know who’s shooting?”
“No. I’m not opening the door.”
A third caller is now on the line.
“They over here shooting again,” she says. “I’m tired, I’m tired, I’m tired.”
A caller who was transferred from Austintown 911 also says she hears gunfire in the Dupont/Hammaker street area in Brier Hill.
“I just wanted to make sure everybody was OK,” she said.
Brindisi is told there is a shooting victim at the hospital, a 16-year-old who rolled into the parking lot in a white Kia Soul.
“Super,” he says in frustration.
He sends 105 to the hospital. But there are not a lot of cars because the call is coming in during roll call and some officers are leaving from afternoons and others are just getting in for midnight. “I’m going to need a who’s on first car pretty soon,” he says.
The midnight turn officer in 105 says he does not have a good location for the shooting. Brindisi sends an east side car, 106 and 109, to the area of Hammaker and Dupont to see if they can find a crime scene. They, however, can not find a scene.
The victim tells police he doesn’t know where it is either.
“I briefly spoke to the victim and he thinks it happened near the hospital, but he’s not sure,” Staley, who never the left hospital after the first shooting, says. “We’re going to interview him a little more in depth. You keep the cars there [Dupont and Hammaker].”
Ultimately, police could not find a crime scene. But there would be two more before the shift was over.
This report is a four-part series targeting just over a 24-hour violent crime spree in the city of Youngstown. You can find a new installment each day from Monday to Thursday this week. To read previous installments, click the links below: