Two nights in August: Part 4 – Decompressing, hoping for the violence to end

Local News
One of the relatives of the two people shot and killed Tuesday on Salt Springs Road hugs Youngstown police officer Malik Mostella Wednesday on North Bon Air Avenue, after the Mahoning Valley Crisis Response Team helped police take a car into evidence they say was used in the homicide. Mostella is a negotiator for the CRT team and coached the man here when the man ran track.

WKBN Photo by Joe Gorman

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) — His name is Tyler and he is a 3-year-old pit bull rescue from Animal Charity in Trumbull County.

After his owner, Detective Sgt. Chris Staley, of the Youngstown Police Department, had just finished a shift where he had been the road supervisor for four separate shootings that killed two people, including a 10-year-old girl, and wounded seven others, he was waiting for his owner to come home.

Staley said one of the drawbacks of working midnights is it is hard to do something after work to destress, such as running or any other kind of exercise.

But Tyler doesn’t mind. No matter the time of day, he is always up for a walk or some playtime.

And a lot of times when Staley gets home, he’s up for those things, also.

“I use my dog a lot to decompress,” said Staley.

Early Aug. 18, it seemed as if the entire city needed to decompress, after Persayus Davis-May, 10, was killed about 2:25 a.m. in a home on Samuel Avenue. Three others were wounded in the same shooting.

About five minutes before Davis-May was killed, Michael Callahan, 40, was found shot and killed in a truck he was driving that crashed into a utility pole at South and Palmer avenues. A passenger was shot in the leg but survived.

Police said both homicides are related but will not say why they believe that other than they are looking for a maroon SUV that was spotted on video and has been linked to both shootings.

A $15,000 reward has been offered for information leading to the arrest of the people involved in the death of Davis-May. There have been no arrests.

Mayor Tito Brown crying at a press conference announcing the death of 10-year-old Persayus Davis-May

Earlier in the evening on Aug. 17, police responded to St. Elizabeth Health Center where three people took themselves after they were wounded in two separate shootings.

WKBN has examined those two nights, Aug. 17 and Aug. 18, by examining police reports, listening to 911 recordings and interviewing people who were present, when possible.

The slightly over 24 hour period on Aug. 17 and 18 was a microcosm of the entire month, when 30 people were shot, six fatally. It was the most violent month in the city in several years, part of the year that had seen 103 people shot by the end of August, five more than all of 2020. The 98 people shot in 2020 was an increase of 40 over the total number of people shot in 2019.

At the time, city police officers were dealing with an increase in shootings with a patrol division depleted by defections and resignations by younger officers who were upset at the low rate of pay for starting officers. Officers were mandated to work overtime several times and there were some shifts that were not entirely filled.

Officer Jeshaila Dunkle, who has been on the department for over six years and a mother of two young children, was working several shifts over 12 hours during the month.

“It’s hectic,” she said one afternoon after roll call and while getting ready to work an afternoon shift on the north side.

She said she worked 20 days of overtime during the month. She was on duty Aug. 17 when the first of three gunshot victims took themselves to St. Elizabeth Health Center.

At just 25, Officer Andrew Balog is one of the youngest members on the department and because he has only been on the job for a year and a half, he often gets mandated to work over because mandated overtime is assigned by seniority.

Balog was one of two officers who responded to South and Palmer avenues where Callahan was found shot to death in his truck. He later found several shell casings at the intersection of Palmer and Gibson avenues.

He estimated he responded to at least three of the month’s homicides and half of the shootings.

He had one word for the month; “Crazy.”

As Balog and Staley and others who worked the hectic overnight shift rested, it seemed the city was in mourning when the news came out that one of the homicide victims was a 10-year-old. The rest of the day was gray and rainy. At an emotional news conference later in the morning, the usually jovial police Chief Carl Davis was visibly angry and Mayor Jamael Tito Brown appeared to have been crying, and even a month later could still not say that the Davis-May had been killed. He said at a press conference announcing an increase in the reward for information in her case that “she was a victim of gun violence.”

Although it was quiet the rest of the day, things got hectic again around 9 p.m. when calls began coming into the 911 Center about gunfire at Rush and Pasadena avenues.

“I don’t know what is happening but it sounded like someone was driving a car and shooting an AK or something,” a caller said. She said the shots are coming from around Pasadena Avenue. When asked if she saw who was doing the shooting, the caller, echoing those from the previous night and morning, said no: “I’m down on the floor,” she said.

“Somebody was just shooting a machine gun,” another caller says at about the same time as a child can be heard in the background. “We were just sitting on the front porch and heard it and came running back in.”

A third caller from the 200 block of Pasadena is on the line: “Somebody just shot about 15 times out there. I made my grandchildren get on the floor and I got out of the way.”

“It was loud as hell,” another caller on East LaClede Avenue says. “It sounded like an AK. It sounds like basically a war.”

Police find an SUV with two victims on East Dewey Avenue and radio back that a woman in the car has been shot in the chest and a man has several gunshot wounds to his arms.

Staley is off tonight and the midnight turn road supervisor is Detective Sgt. John Fields, a Cleveland Browns fanatic and son of a longtime city cop. He tells midnight turn dispatcher Mike Brindisi, who has now handled five shooting calls in just over 24 hours with 11 victims, to send some cars to East Dewey and Rush Boulevard.

“I drove through the intersection and there’s brass everywhere,” Fields said.

The male victim has a holster on his hip and the gun that was in the holster had jammed so he could not return fire. Detective Sgt. Josh Kelly, who is a police dog handler and Pittsburgh Steelers fanatic, is in the office and says he will call detectives. He then calls Chief of Detectives Capt. Rod Foley and tells him there are two victims, and several casings from a rifle in the street blocks away.

“With the amount of shootings we’ve had I figured I would give you a call,” Kelly said.

Several minutes later Brindisi is told “upwards of 15 casings” are in the street in the 2200 block of Rush Boulevard. Several minutes later, Fields and Kelly are informed that detectives and Crime Lab personnel are on their way to the crime scene.

Two days later, the male victim of the shooting is at the police department with a pair of detectives. He is a massive man, and the bandages on his arms are massive as well. He moves gingerly as if every step requires extra thought. The detectives thank him for his time and tell him how he can get his vehicle back; detectives had it towed for evidence but they no longer need it.

Without a word, he gets on an elevator, down to the first floor, and leaves, hopefully to recover.

Just like the city.

This report is the final installment of a four-part series. Read parts 1-3 by clicking on the links below.

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