A father ran red lights and sped through morning traffic as he rushed to the North Toledo crime scene where his 16-year-old son became Toledo’s fourth victim of fatal gun violence since June 1.
RELATED: The Blade’s 2018 homicide database
The father, Charles Veley, 44, posted a video Monday on Facebook Live that depicted his frantic race to the location where Kenneth Veley died of a gunshot wound in the unit block of East Central Avenue.
Note: Audio quality may be poor and stops toward the end of the video.
The father said on the video that nothing was going to stop him from getting to his son — not red lights — as he sped past other cars, the video shows.
“I just gotta get to my son, I don’t want to do nothing else today,” he said.
The elder Veley arrived at the scene and ran from his vehicle to Toledo police detectives, only to be told his boy’s body was already transported to the Lucas County Coroner’s Office.
The Veley boy died from multiple gunshot wounds to the neck and chest. His death is ruled a homicide, Dr. Cynthia Beisser, a Lucas County deputy coroner, said.
The Veley youth’s death comes as the hottest summer months visit northwest Ohio; a time of year that’s historically led to an uptick in gun violence and murders on Toledo’s streets and in cities across the country.
Toledo Mayor Wade Kapszukiewicz watched the elder Veley’s video on Tuesday and said he was struck by both the need to address violent crime, but also by the similarities between himself and the father depicted in the social media post.
Mayor Kapszukiewicz is close to the other man’s age and has a child close to the Veley youth’s age.
“I saw myself in this gentleman,” he said. “That could have been any of us. That could have been me. And I would have run as many red lights, too, to get there.”
Mayor Kapszukiewicz and Police Chief George Kral offered several factors that contribute to an increase in violence during summer months: more people spending more time outside, schools not being in session, even higher temperatures themselves.
“What we’re seeing unfortunately in the past week or so follows a pattern that has evolved over the last several years,” the mayor said.
Chief Kral said that, while shootings overall are down, homicides in the city are going up, putting Toledo on pace to have more killings this year than last.
Toledo recorded 24 homicides in 2015, 36 in 2016, and 39 in 2017.
Police are trying to prevent violent crime by aggressively investigating non-fatal shootings, using new technology to aid officers in collecting evidence, and simply interacting with the public more, especially young children who may be at risk of entering a criminal lifestyle, Chief Kral said.
“We cannot do this without the help of the community,” he said. “I understand the fear of reprisal, but there has to be a time where we as a community draw a proverbial line in the sand and say, ‘we’re done.’”
Chief Kral said the department is planning to get access to the National Integrated Ballistic Information Network, a national database managed by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives that tracks images of shell casings found at crime scenes. The database can be searched for possible matches.
The department is also seeking grant funding for ShotSpotter, which is a sensor that tracks gunshots in a particular area and alerts officers when a shot is fired, allowing officers to respond more quickly to a possible crime scene than a 911 call, Chief Kral said.
Mayor Kapszukiewicz said the city is committed to increasing the police force from approximately 602 officers to at least 660. More officers in the department means more officers walking the streets, interacting with the public and getting to know residents and business owners, he said.
For his part, Veley in his Facebook video said he is preparing for a bike ride to promote an end to gun violence.
Four years ago he did a solo ride to Los Angeles to promote an end to gun violence and dedicated it to La’Sean Robinson, 29, who was murdered by Veley’s other son, Charles McCuin. Mr. Robinson was killed and left naked, face down in a North Toledo field on June 10, 2012.
On Monday, Veley posted a second video on his Facebook account, saying he is offering a cash reward for anyone with information about his son’s killer.
A message left for Veley was not returned.
Brandon Copeland, 37, worked with the Veley youth as a case manager for a school-based program called T.A.C.K.L.E., which stands for Teach, Aspire, Critical, Knowledge, Learning, Empowerment.
“The best way I can put it — knowing him personally — nobody deserves to die,” Mr. Copeland said. “I know him. They didn’t have to kill him. That’s just one of the hardest things. Every issue can be worked out.”
Mr. Copeland said he grew up in inner city Toledo and said he made poor choices.
He said he shared those experiences with the Veley youth ,who just finished his freshman year at Scott High School, and told the boy he had two supportive parents. Mr. Copeland also stressed to the boy it’s important to be around good people.
“Kenny was a smart dude, he was a very smart dude,” Mr. Copeland said. “The thing with him, he never gave me any pushback.”
Mr. Copeland said the violence among youth, as well as the homicide rate, is too high in Toledo. He encouraged parents and adults to speak with children about their experiences.
“I encourage older people in the community, the people who have been through things to say something. I know we can’t save them all,” he said.
Retired Toledo police sergeant Anita Madison, chair of the Partners Empowering Community Safety, said efforts to prevent children from getting caught up in high risk behavior need to start young. First, second and third grade, she said, should be a target age for parents and community leaders to talk to children about violence.
“We can’t wait until high school to engage young people about violence,” she said.
Families, she said, also need to take initiative in leading young people in the community away from criminal activity.
“We have to try to find a way for the moral voice of the community to be heard,” she said.
No arrests have been made in connection to the Veley youth’s death.
Separately, no arrests have been made in connection to the shooting death of Timothy McCollum, 30, who was found with at least one gunshot wound Saturday after his vehicle struck a tree near Walnut and North Erie streets.
The Lucas County Coroner’s Office ruled the death a homicide. Mr. McCollum died of a single gunshot wound to the torso.
The Blade attempted to reach family of both victims.
Anyone with information should contact the Crime Stopper program at 419-255-1111.
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