MANSFIELD, Ohio–Shooting incidents in Mansfield earlier this week led some community leaders and members to determine to take a stand against crime.

The incidents left four wounded, and Mansfield Police Chief Ken Coontz stated that there were many shots fired and it was fortunate there weren’t more victims. Deterring community violence is the goal of the group that gathered to form a plan on Wednesday.

WMFD Anchor Brigitte Coles issued an invitation Monday. She wrote, “The shooting that occurred at John’s Park this afternoon occurred in the neighborhood I grew up in. In fact, I used to live across the street from the park. I’m heartbroken by the increasing violence and drug activity that is occurring in our community. The violence has to stop in our neighborhoods.”

That was something that all of those who gathered Wednesday at Mount Calvary Baptist Church on North Main Street could agree on. The meeting included lay people, pastors, representatives of the NAACP, the Richland County Foundation, Richland Newhope, North End Community Collaborative, Mansfield City Council (Don Bryant), and Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine’s office (Tammy Puff).

In his opening remarks, Rev. Derek Williams said, “Those days of sitting around and just talking about things and never getting anything done are long over. I read an article yesterday from the chief of police that said this has got to stop. This has got to stop because once it gets out of control, it’s impossible to get it under control.

“So this meeting I’m calling today is for all of us to come together to have a unified voice together, as Mansfield, because it takes all of us to do it together because if we don’t do it, it will destroy our economic development and quality that we have, not only on the north end but every end of Mansfield,” said Williams.

Chief Coontz agreed that it is a Mansfield problem as he reviewed the recent shooting incidents.

“One occurred on the far south end of town, one occurred on the far north end of town, and the other one was nearly central. So it doesn’t really matter whether you’re north or south, it’s up to all of us to do something, to make some kind of movement, to see what we can do to impact violence in our community,” he said.

As he related the events of the shooting on Sunday and Monday, Coontz said he was surprised there weren’t more injuries or that no one died.

On Sunday multiple shots were fired in the Wood Street Apartment complex area, yet no one other than the two shooting, was struck by stray shots.

“It was amazing to me. From that scene, what did we find? We found three guns; we know there were at least five people we believe were involved in that one incident that resulted in two people getting shot and sent to the hospital. We recovered three firearms. Two of the three firearms were stolen from burglaries. Then, a few hours later, a large party on the south side of town, multiple fights breaking out, an estimated over 200 people at this venue, and how a bystander didn’t get shot from shots being rung out is again, amazing,” said Coontz.

And then at Johns Park on Monday, where the park is surrounded by homes, again, multiple shots were fired but no innocent residents were injured. Only the intended victim sustained a wound, but the chief noted that bullets were dug out of the ground as the victim was fired upon as he ran away.

Of those involved in the shooting, drugs were a factor for at least one individual, one or two of those involved in incidents were students that may still be in school, or still should be students.

Already Coontz said there’s been research done to see what resources for plans are available to deter violence or are being used by other communities. He said that from what they’ve found, it’s not a police department issue.

“The police can’t do it all,” he said. “The successes come from when you have the police department involved with community leaders and you bring people into it, so we all come together. We all figure out what our role is and how we can help.”

One idea considered was a gun buy-back program. A woman in the audience suggested that churches be more welcoming and provide drug programs. Another woman observed that programs at Friendly House end after sixth grade, leaving older students vulnerable to less desirable activities.

Other ideas included community policing, expanding neighborhood watch programs, or establishing mentorship programs. All ideas are welcome and the next meeting will be held on April 7 at 10 a.m.

A Mansfield Non-Violence Unity in the Community Rally will be held Saturday, April 11 at 343 N. Main Street, Mansfield. The event will begin at noon. Everyone is invited. The rally will serve as a call to action for the community, city leaders, law enforcement, businesses, churches, and organizations.

For more information, contact Rev. Williams at 419-524-7993.

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“… if we don’t do it, it will destroy our economic development and quality that we have, not only on the north end but every end of Mansfield,” said Rev. Derek Williams.

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