Dayton residents struggle with shock, grief after 9 dead
Dayton, Ohio — Airiana Camp blinked and shook her head at the images, still fresh in her mind.
"Bodies in the street covered up with white bags. Blood everywhere."
Camp, 22, said she later learned the body of her close friend Lois Oglesby lay under one of those bags, one of nine killed and dozens wounded Sunday in the city's historic Oregon District.
"It's just hard to get my mind around it," Camp said.
"She had two children," Camp said of Oglesby, 27. "She just had a little baby girl; she went to the bar to get away, to get some fresh air. I keep hoping she'll wake up in the hospital and tell me she's OK."
The mass shooting in Dayton was the second in the United States over the weekend, leaving a nation reeling. On Saturday in El Paso, Texas, at least 20 people were killed and more than two dozen injured when a gunman walked into a crowded shopping area. The carnage: Within 13 hours in two shootings, at least 29 dead.
Police in Dayton say Connor Betts, 24, opened fire in the area around 1 a.m. Sunday, killing his sister and eight other people. Police fatally shot Betts within 30 seconds from the start of his rampage. A motive hasn't been released.
On Sunday, whether they knew the victims or live nearby, Dayton residents expressed shock after a national tragedy hit so close to home.
Camp said she was partying Saturday night in Newcom's Tavern, about a half-block south of the shooting site near 5th and Pine streets on the edge of Dayton's downtown. The Dayton resident said patrons were told at one point they weren't allowed to leave the bar.
"We didn't know what was going on," she said. "They just told us we weren't allowed to leave. We heard rumors that there was some kind of fight, but nobody knew anything."
Camp said she still didn't know the truth when, at 6 a.m. Sunday, patrons finally were able to exit the bar. She shuddered at the memory of what she saw when she walked outside.
"I saw a bunch of cops. Bodies in the street covered up with white bags. Blood everywhere. There was blood outside all these places." Camp pointed beyond the yellow police tape to a man hosing off the sidewalk outside a row of businesses. "He's washing off the blood now."
Camp said she later discovered there had been a mass shooting — and that her friend was among the victims.
"She was a laid-back, no-drama person," Camp said of Oglesby. "She was like my sister."
Camp said she also discovered Sunday her 19-year-old sister had gone to the popular Oregon District to party. "I had to find out if she was all right," she said.
Local residents said the Oregon District normally would have been crowded on a sunny weekend afternoon, but police had the area taped off most of the day Sunday, while other areas of downtown were barren, other than police and media vehicles.
On Sunday night, police re-opened portions of Oregon District to accommodate people for an 8 p.m. vigil. A marquee in the district thanked first responders and carried the message "Dayton strong" as thousands gathered, holding candles during a somber ceremony.
Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley told a crowd of thousands at the vigil that they had unwillingly become members of a special fraternity.
"We have been inducted into the select group of cities that have had this type of tragedy," Whaley said. "But I have no doubt that tomorrow, the next day, and the day after that this will continue to be a place to celebrate."
At the Levitt Pavilion, a few blocks from the shooting site, a family movie night — a singalong with “The Greatest Showman" — was planned. On Sunday, a rotating electronic sign alternated flashing messages: "Movie Night Postponed" and "Dayton Strong."
"This should be a wake-up call for everyone to get together and stop all this hate," Dayton resident India Jones said. "I don't understand: What was this young man thinking? What went through his mind when he did this? I pray for all the victims, and for this young man's family, too."
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Alicia Puller, 60, said she lives three blocks from where the shooting occurred. "I walk around there all the time," she said. "It's usually safe; there are cops down there all the time."
Derrick Fitzpatrick, 49, said the heavy police presence in the Oregon District is why officers were able to shoot the gunman minutes after he opened fire.
"It got settled fast," he said. "It's sad. If I was president, I'd make it a mandatory 20 years if someone gets caught with an illegal gun, and another year in prison for each bullet."
Amanda Luke, 36, said after hearing of the shooting, she felt compelled to make a sign that said: "If I die in a white nationalist terrorist attack leave my body on the steps of Congress," and drive from the nearby suburb of Fairborn to the shooting site.
"I came out because I wanted to make a statement about white supremacy," she said, alluding to the mass shooting in El Paso by a man who may have written a manifesto criticizing immigrants.
Jones, who is black, said she held the opposite opinion: “This isn’t about skin color," she said. "This is about hate, which has no race. People shouldn't make this about skin color, because we all bleed red.”
Jones said she had planned to stop by the Oregon District on Saturday night, but decided against it. When asked why she changed her mind, she said: "God."
Sonya Lewis, 47, brought sunflowers to the Oregon District on Sunday to honor the victims. They were a gift, she said, from City Church Dayton, "so I'm giving them to the victims."
Lewis, who wore a T-shirt bearing the messages "Live for Life," "Hope for All," and "Life is for Life," said she resides a few blocks from the shooting site.
"I heard the gunshots, but I was sleeping, and I thought it was the garbage trucks banging like they always do," she said. "Little did I know it was people being murdered."
Detroit Police Chief James Craig said he and other local law enforcement officials were on a conference call with the FBI on Sunday afternoon.
"They just wanted to keep the channels of communication open, and reiterate that this is not confined to Dayton and El Paso. It's a national concern."
Craig, who served as the police chief in Cincinnati, said the Oregon District in Dayton reminds him of Greektown in downtown Detroit.
"They're eerily similar. We train for these type of contingencies. Anywhere where a large crowd gathers, we train for an active shooter situation," Craig said.
"I applaud the quick work of the police in El Paso, but especially in Dayton. If they hadn't stopped him, so quick, it would have been a worse tragedy."