Warren Mayor Doug Franklin and the family of a man gunned down Saturday at a local gas station called for an end to what's been described as escalating violence.
''We have to move in an opposite direction,'' Franklin said, asking for everyone in the city to try to help quell any rumors and talk of retaliation that followed two shooting deaths one week apart.
Taemarr Walker, 24, was shot to death Oct. 19 in a confrontation with a police officer near the intersection of Palmyra and Risher Road S.W. On Saturday, Richard Rollison IV, 24, was fatally wounded at the Sunoco Service Station on West Market Street. Walker's brother, Tashawn Walker, 26, has been arrested in connection with the shooting.
Rollison's father, Richard III, asked for no retaliation in the wake of his son's death.
''I'm not mad today. I'm sad today because my son is gone. I can't get him back. If you want to make me feel better, stop all of this violence,'' he said, fighting back tears at the morning news conference at City Hall.
Rollison said 23 of his son's friends collected at his home at some point since the shooting and reportedly were talked out of considering any type of retaliatory efforts for the death of their friend. Rollison credited Vince Peterson, a probation officer and a pastor, with gathering the young men and counseling them about thoughts of any more violence.
Tribune Chronicle / Christopher Bobby
Warren Mayor Doug Franklin, at the podium, Richard Rollison III, left of the mayor, and Warren Safety-Service director Enzo Cantalamessa, far right, and other Rollinson family members conduct a news conference Wednesday at City Hall. Rollison is the father of shooting victim Richard Rollison IV.
Franklin assured reporters and other officials at the news conference that city police are working to make sure residents are safe in their homes and children are safe in the street. The mayor, for example, said that trick-or-treat is still planned for 5 to 7 p.m. today.
Peterson and Franklin blamed students and others with increasing tensions over the recent violence through irresponsible use of social media. The mayor urged the professional media to avoid carelessness.
Heightened security has been reported in local schools on the streets and even at some local bars.
Efforts to promote Warren continue
By RAYMOND L. SMITH
WARREN - Efforts to promote the city as a place to move new families and to open new businesses have taken a number of hits this year.
The year was only 2 hours, 10 minutes old when there were gunshots outside of the former Sunset Lounge, 480 E. Market St. S.E., and a city resident was fatally wounded.
In March, a series of raids organized by local, state and federal law enforcement agencies that netted hundreds of pounds of drugs, weapons and other tools used in criminal activities showed the city has been a destination for illegal drugs and gang violence.
In the last month, a city police officer killed a man believed to have been on his way to shoot up a local bar, and on Saturday, the dead man's brother stole a car and killed a young father who was at a West Market Street gas station, according to police reports.
Leaders of organizations attempting to promote the city for new residents and new businesses say these and other smaller events do not help, but neither have they curtailed their efforts.
"I think news of these events are detrimental to our efforts because there are some people who believe that this is only what Warren is,'' Dennis Blank said. ''But people who live here know that there is a lot more to Warren. These events do not define the city."
Blank said creating a broader, more complete view of life in the city is what has propelled him in recent years to promote a garden district that in which homes and properties are rehabbed, and gregg's gardens, where abandoned properties are used for wildflower gardens.
He also has an Internet site called WarrenExpress that highlight various issues in the the city.
"In other larger cities, like New York, people know there are so many other positive things happening that periodic spikes in crime does not define what people think of them," he said. "We don't have that luxury. We are working to highlight positives in the city."
Blank said that in the last two years, the efforts have been winning converts with other private citizens improving their properties and others working together to improve the 22-square-block downtown area known as the Garden District.
Melissa Holmes, interim director of Main Street Warren, said the organization's goal will be to fight the negative perception of downtown Warren.
"Obviously, we will be fighting the negative perceptions," Holmes said. "There was a young black man who was senselessly killed. It does us no good to point fingers. We have to work together to find solutions.
"We have to pull together and lift one another up," she said. "It has been a horrible couple of weeks. It has been very sad. We have to use it as an opportunity to look at ourselves."
Diane Sauer, owner of Diane Sauer Chevrolet and president of Trumbull 100, said members of the business community met with city administrators and the police department at the Sunrise Inn in November after an earlier shooting.
"They promised to dedicate as much police to the city as possible," Sauer said. "There are forces outside of the city moving into it. As business owners and community stakeholders, we are working together with the city and are providing support to the police."
Mayor Doug Franklin agrees that periodic crime spikes present a challenge in the city's effort to both retain citizens and businesses and to attract those considering moving into the community.
"There has been no developer that has told me they would not move into the city because of their perception about the level of crime occurring in the city," Franklin said.
"Although I believe there is a connection between safety and economic development. I know that communities that are perceived to be safer are more salable," he said.
Finding ways to reduce crime also is important to the administration's efforts to keep residents already established in city neighborhoods and attract new ones.
"My focus has been on long time residents who are anchored in our neighborhoods," he said. "We have to provide them with a sense of security. It is a daunting task. Many of them have raised their families in Warren and they deserve to feel safe in their homes."
Franklin said the city's efforts over the last three to four years to tear down abandoned properties has been part of that effort.
"We've torn down more than 400 properties in the last several years," Franklin described.
The mayor also noted that the raids on the massage parlors last year and the drug and gun raids that occurred earlier this year also are part of the city's pro-active effort make it a safer community.
"Our working with outside law enforcement agencies will continue," Franklin said. "In the one raid, we took a record amount of drugs off the street, confiscated numerous illegal weapons, and made 94 arrests."
The closing of the Sunset lounge, identified as a nuisance, is one example of the city's effort to make neighborhoods safer.
"It is now a church," he said.
Franklin said his administration has worked to hire and retain as many police officers as the city's budget will allow.
Franklin said the administration is working closer with community organizations, such as gregg's gardens, Trumbull Neighborhood Partnership and others in order to help those working day by day in the neighborhoods and solving problems.
"Clearly our work is not done," Franklin said. "We always have to be vigilant. We have to be as innovative as possible in making the community safe and attractive."
Dashboard camera recordings from one of the Warren police cruisers at the scene revealed that Richard C. Rollison IV identified Tashawn "Boo" Walker as the man who shot him in the parking lot of the Sunoco gas station just before 1 a.m.
The video, released by city police to the Tribune Chronicle Tuesday after a public records request, reveals the aftermath of the shooting, including conversations between a dying Rollison and city police.
Rollison replied "No" when a police officer asked if he was "having a beef with this guy?"
Tashawn Walker was eventually arrested in Texas and is on track to be extradited back to Ohio.
City police are working with Warren Township police to determine if there are connections with Rollison's shooting and an incident that occurred earlier Saturday morning at the J&L Lounge, 1957 Highland Ave., which is in Warren Township.
Tashawn Walker and Thomas Walker are alleged to have gone to the lounge to confront one or more persons attending a private party who they believed made comments about Taemarr's death. A fight in the lounge moved outside and shots were fired at the building.
Warren and the surrounding area were on "heightened alert" last week after Taemarr Walker's death. Officials at the Ohio State Highway Patrol's Warren Post in Southington confirmed that Warren police had asked OSHP to help saturate the area with police presence as a precaution.
State Bureau of Criminal Identification and Investigation agents are investigating the shooting by a police who confronted an armed Taemarr Walker after the car he was in went off the road.
Police can be heard on dash camera video, while at the scene of Taemarr Walker's death, discussing a report that he had been on his way to shoot up a local bar when the car went off the road.
Owners of that club, II Hype Lounge, said on Wednesday that city officials had suggested they close the bar last weekend as a precaution after the shooting of Taemarr Walker. The club was closed Friday and Saturday evenings.
However, the owners said the bar was operating as usual this week and is scheduled to be open its regular hours this weekend.