Dayton Strong: A Summer of Strife Leads to Strength

Editor’s Note: Though a vast number of sources use the name “Megan Betts,” including most of the major media outlets, it has since been reported that Megan was a transgender man who went by Jordan Cofer to those closest to him. Personally, as a supporter of LGBTQ+ rights and out of respect for the victim, we will use his preferred name and gender, and include his preferred pronouns when addressing him in the below article.

On Aug. 4, in the wee small hours, as groups of Daytonians enjoyed a Saturday night, shifting into the laziness of Sunday on a much earned night of relaxation at the end of the summer, when suddenly a young man entered the Oregon District with a weapon of war, taking the lives of nine and injuring another 27.

The shooter was 24-year-old Connor Betts of Bellbrook, Ohio. He was a former Sinclair student and had been seeking a mental health specialist for some time, having a well-documented history of red flags leading up to August’s shooting.

Mourners pay their respects outside of Ned Peppers. (Credit: Elliana Miller-Young)

The victims were: Jordan Cofer, the shooter’s 22-year-old brother. He was a Wright State student and planned to graduate in 2020. He also loved to write, twice receiving scholarships at Antioch Young Writer’s Workshop and made personalized gifts for his mom every year for Christmas.

Lois Ogelsby was a mother to a newborn and an older daughter, herself just returning to work from maternity leave.

“We grew up as cousins,” said her friend Derasha Merrett. “We grew up in the same church, on the same drill team. She works at my kids’ daycare. We all grew up in this little town. We’re all family. We’re all hurting behind this.”

Saeed Saleh was a recent Eritrean migrant who moved to Dayton with his wife, Zaid and his daughter Randa.

Saleh was supporting his wife and child as well as his two children in Eritrea and his brother who is in a Cairo, Egypt refugee center.

Derrick Fudge had been out with his son, among other family members, enjoying the Oregon District. He died in his son’s arms.

“That was my last chance to really speak to him.” Said Dion Green, Fudge’s son. “He looked at me, he was breathing. He just laid there with his eyes open in my arms.

“I just kept saying, ‘I love you, get up, get up.’ I didn’t know what else to keep saying.”

“[He was] just looking up to the sky, with his eyes just wide open, just taking little gasps of air and then he didn’t move no more.”

A memorial of the victims of the Oregon District shooting. (Source: NBC4 WCMH-TV/YouTube)

Logan Turner was a fellow Sinclair graduate and had an engineering degree from the University of Toledo. He had graduated from Springboro in 2008 and had just celebrated his 30th birthday.

“He was very generous and loving and the world’s best son,” Turner’s mother said. “Everyone loved Logan. He was a happy go lucky guy.”

Nicholas Cumer has just accepted a job at Maple Tree Cancer Alliance and was out with colleagues, celebrating.

According to Karen Wonders, who operates the Maple Tree Cancer Alliance, Nicholas died shielding two of his coworkers from gunfire.

Thomas McNichols was a father of four and lived with his aunt, Donna Johnson. The two sat eating Twizzlers before he went out that night.

“Everybody loved him. He was like a big kid,” Johnson said. “When all of the movies come out – Batman, Black Panther – he would get all his nephews and take them to the movies.”

Monica Brickhouse and Beatrice Warren-Curtis were friends who had been out together on the night of the shooting.

“Nicole Curtis and Monica Storey Brickhouse were like two of my work daughters,” Facebook friend Tonya Amos wrote in  a post.

“I had the opportunity to manage and mentor them for some years. We sat beside each other everyday. We have laughed and cried together. Shared life stories and supported each other. These two ladies were very special to me. I’m sad and mad at this senseless loss. I cannot imagine how their families feel if I’m feeling this way. Lord have Mercy.”

An event that could have been much worse, thankfully was stopped in under 30 seconds by officers: Sgt. William C. Knight, Officer Brian Rolfes, Officer Jeremy Campbell, Officer Vincent Carter, Officer Ryan Nabel and Officer David Denlinger. Of the many first responders who came to help shortly afterwards, two of them, Tom McMurty and Karen Moore, were from Sinclair.

Flowers were placed in bullet holes in the windows of buildings down 5th Street. (Credit: Elliana Miller-Young)

It started at the tail end of May, with the KKK rally downtown and the tornadoes that ravaged parts of the Dayton community, and has continued into August with the shooting in the Oregon District. This summer hasn’t been kind to our community, but through it all Dayton has stayed strong.

After the events of the night of Aug. 4, politicians from all over the state (eventually even the president who had a short-lived Twitter war with our town’s mayor) and community members gathered on 5th Street, less than 24 hours after the shooting, to pay their respects.

Gov. DeWine, who showed up that night and was met with calls from the audience to “do something,” has just recently taken steps towards contending gun violence, especially in our schools, with the Ohio School Safety Center.

Springfield native, and Grammy award-winning singer-songwriter John Legend played a concert at Blind Bob’s, a bar across from Ned Pepper’s and next to the alleyway the shooter began his attack.

The shooter, his sister and a friend had been at Blind Bob’s at the beginning of the night of the shooting.

Though this is being written before the event, it will be published after the streetwide Oregon District celebration lead by Yellow Springs, Ohio native, Dave Chapelle. The event is free and is intended as “a benefit concert to reclaim the Oregon District.”

“Gem City Shine” drew in nearly 20,000 people and included acts like Dave Chapelle, Jon Stewart, Stevie Wonder and Chance the Rapper. (Source: CBS News/YouTube)

The dark cloud that has hung over the Miami Valley community seems to be dissipating as we move slowly towards autumn, with hope for better days and less tragedy.

From the KKK rally that painted downtown in an Orwellian nightmarescape, to the tornadoes that displaced community members, to one night of terror, Dayton has shown its resiliency these past couple of months.

Time has passed and the global news cycle has moved on to land grabs from Denmark and beloved characters leaving even more beloved film franchises, but the artifacts still remain. The aftereffects remain.

The pictures of flowers in bullet holes, the makeshift gravestones, littered with dying flowers, the memories of phone calls and text messages in the twilight of early dawn, and for those closest to the shooting, memories that I can’t even fathom.

I won’t say that I know how to solve the problems that have plagued our city over this past summer, nor how to solve the exclamation point at summer’s end, something that hasn’t just happened in our town, but in hundreds of towns across this nation since two troubled teenagers walked into a Colorado high school and kickstarted one of America’s gravest faults, but I will say that it hasn’t wounded us mortally.

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Factories come and go, industry leaves, the plight of the once thriving Steel Belt, has faded into rust, but the community that is Dayton has stood resilient. Through all that has plagued this city this past summer, the city itself has shown only the hint of cracks in its resilience.

As Orville Wright once suggested, “The airplane stays up because it doesn’t have time to fall.” So too does the city that Wright once called home. The rebuilding has become an almost Sisyphean task, though through it all Dayton has stood strong, and with hope it will continue to, as there isn’t time enough to fall.

Richard Foltz
Executive Editor

The people of Dayton chant at a vigil for the victims to “do something” at local politicians. (Source: Washington Post/YouTube)

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