Toledo leaders on Thursday offered tough talk and promises of new initiatives amid a stretch of intense gun violence, a rash of crime punctuated by several killings, a detective wounded by a bullet, and most recently police exchanging gunfire with suspected gang members outside a central-city carryout.
Toledo Police Chief George Kral delivered a strong, deliberate message for those who use firearms while breaking the law: Don’t bring guns into the city’s streets, don’t shoot at Toledo’s citizens, and especially don’t shoot at officers sworn to protect and serve.
“If you do any of these things, I will move heaven and Earth to hunt you down, take you into custody, and publicly advocate for the harshest legal charges and longest prison sentences possible,” he said.
The chief made the statements during a news conference that outlined details of the police officers’ shootout with a group of armed men at about 7:30 p.m. Wednesday at the Monroe Carryout, 2829 Monroe St. Chief Kral and other city, county, and federal officials highlighted arrests made after that firefight as a significant blow to a wave of gun violence that has swept Toledo in recent months.
Richard Morris, Jr., 26, of the 1000 block of Markham Court and Jayvon Wynne, 22, of the 700 block of Blum Street are both charged with felonious assault, a first-degree felony. Additionally, Phillip Overton II, 22, of the 1200 block of Mason Street is charged with improperly handling a firearm in a motor vehicle, a fourth-degree felony.
The chief described the three men as “very dangerous” individuals who are part of a gang, although he declined to say which gang. Detectives were following the men in a vehicle because they were believed to be involved in multiple shooting incidents throughout the past several months, Chief Kral said.
“We’re working on piecing together what exactly we can link these suspects to, and we’re just starting that,” the chief said. “We’re looking at maybe six months to a year of old shootings, old felonious assaults, old homicides that we’re going to try and link up with these suspects from last night.”
The incident comes during the same week the city’s homicide total jumped to 38 and also just weeks after Detective Jason Picking was shot in the face during a drug-related search warrant.
Toledo’s incoming mayor, Lucas County Treasurer Wade Kapszukiewicz, said he’s been in informal contact with Chief Kral and hopes to pursue two programs that target gun violence: A local version of Operation Ceasefire that was rolled out in Boston in 1996 and “Not In My House,” a program that involves parents and grandparents turning in weapons and drugs owned by a juvenile in their home with no legal consequences.
Mr. Kapszukiewicz said he talked to Chief Kral on Thursday and has also spoken to Lucas County Prosecutor Julia Bates about adopting a “Not In My House” program.
The program would include a placard that people could put in their homes asserting that no one there would be allowed to keep illegal drugs or guns.
“It is sort of a way to engage parents or grandparents who may suspect there are drug, guns, paraphernalia in their homes,” Mr. Kapszukiewicz said. An officer would take away the offending item, no questions asked.
He said any such amnesty, however, would not necessarily extend to the owner of a weapon.
Operation Ceasefire included two main elements: a direct law enforcement attack on illicit firearms traffickers supplying youths with guns and an attempt to generate a strong deterrent to gang violence, according to a U.S. Department of Justice paper.
“Even if we don’t have the coordinated resources they had in Boston, one of the ideas is that through undercover work and good old-fashioned policing that law enforcement knew where the hot spots of troublemaking are. There are aspects of that model that would work here,” Mr. Kapszukiewicz said.
He said he understands TPD already has a model that is being developed that focuses on high-priority and prolific offenders.
Mr. Kapszukiewicz said he plans to interview Chief Kral next week about whether he should continue as chief under his administration. Mr. Kapszukiewicz said he is reviewing all the executive positions. So far, no significant high-level appointments have been announced.
Detectives made a stop on the vehicle carrying Mr. Morris and Mr. Wynne at the carryout, Chief Kral said. As officers identified themselves and approached the vehicle, Mr. Morris and Mr. Wynne shot out of the vehicle, Chief Kral said.
The officers retreated, took cover behind their vehicles and returned fire. Mr. Morris and Mr. Wynne were both shot, police said. Emergency communications indicated one was shot in the buttocks and the other in a shoulder.
“I can’t say which officer struck which suspect,” Chief Kral said. “We’re going to have to wait for forensic testing to be completed before we can rule on that.”
Mr. Wynne is accused of firing two rounds from a 9mm handgun at police Officer Norman Cairl before fleeing, according to an affidavit filed in Toledo Municipal Court. While being pursued, he then pointed the gun at police Sgt. Duane Poole after the officer identified himself, court documents show.
Mr. Morris is also accused of fleeing from the shooting when he too pointed a loaded handgun at Sergeant Poole, who identified himself as an officer, according to court records. A third suspect, Phillip Overton, was taken into custody without incident and charged with improperly handling a firearm in a motor vehicle. He was not injured, police said.
Toledo police continue to investigate the incident.
Combating violent crime has not been an issue that Mayor Paula Hicks-Hudson has chosen to highlight in the form of news conferences, even as the number of shootings in Toledo in 2017 has approached some previous high-homicide years.
But it has been a regular subject of discussion between her and Chief Kral, both said on Thursday.
The mayor, who referred to the three men arrested after the shootout as “knuckleheads,” said her practice was to give the chief the tools he needed and to make sure she stayed informed — a procedure Chief Kral confirmed.
“Every time there is a shooting he gets an email or a text asking not only for information, but what we can do to try to meet this and deal with the shootings,” Ms. Hicks-Hudson said after Thursday’s news conference.
Ms. Hicks-Hudson said she’s always supported Chief Kral and the department’s needs.
“I have always supported whatever he needed to do,” Ms. Hicks-Hudson said. “Asked him if there was other things we could do. He’s the law enforcement expert and I have relied upon him to lead. He’s the police chief.”
She added she’s pursued a host of initiatives aimed at connecting with “people on the ground.”
Last month, she and Chief Kral and the “Black and Brown Coalition” signed a “Code of Conduct” to be observed both by neighborhood youths — who promised to cooperate with police investigating crimes — and by police who promised to use force with restraint. The intent of the code — negotiated by Baldemar Velasquez, president and founder of Farm Labor Organizing Committee — was to promote mutual respect between police and the minority culture when crime occurs.
Chief Kral said, “the mayor’s very involved.”
“Whenever there’s a shooting I knew I’d be getting a phone call. She wouldn’t tell me to do X-Y-Z but she would ask me what we had planned and we kept her in the loop as much as possible,” the chief said.
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