Police seek 4 men after robbery, shootout
A helicopter and a small plane circled overhead during the search.
By PATRICIA MEADE
VINDICATOR CRIME REPORTER
YOUNGSTOWN -- Shots fired at police from a church secretary's stolen Cadillac on the East Side touched off return fire and a massive dragnet.
The search for four heavily armed young men in a wooded area off Albert Street was called off around 6:45 p.m. Friday, about six hours after it started.
The hunt then continued at private residences.
The woods that were searched surround Albert Street near the Himrod Avenue Expressway and extend to Garland Avenue by the McGuffey Plaza.
The wail of sirens could be heard as dozens of officers from surrounding communities arrived in the early afternoon with shotguns, high-powered rifles and search dogs. The Ohio State Highway Patrol sent a small plane and helicopter.
Police in full battle gear told residents to stay inside their homes and lock their doors. At some intersections, yellow crime scene tape was looped around trees to prevent through traffic.
Himrod was shut down. The show of force attracted gawkers, many of whom sat under shade trees on the periphery of the action.
Employees at the Mahoning County Human Services building in the McGuffey Plaza were evacuated at 2 p.m. Many near-accidents were witnessed as cars sped from the parking lot.
Lt. Robin Lees set up a command center at Albert and Arch streets. The fire department hauled in water for police officers in the sweltering heat.
"Everybody stay behind cover" was the slogan of the day.
Police scanner traffic identified three of the likely suspects as Jamal Edwards, Brandon Jackson and Duniek Christian; the identity of the fourth was uncertain.
Police said a warrant was issued Friday for Christian, 19, related to shootouts between two groups Wednesday night on South Pearl Street and Grandview Avenue. The gunfire left Edwards' 18-year-old brother dead on Grandview.
Lees said two arrests were made Friday evening on South Forest Avenue related to Wednesday's shootings on South Pearl, but the names, one of a juvenile, were not available by press time. The jail said Antwan White, 19, was one of those arrested on South Forest.
Shortly after 5 p.m., the Mahoning Valley Law Enforcement Task Force Crisis Response Team entered the woods off Albert to do a sweep. Officers on the perimeter leaned against their cruisers, shotguns in hand.
They were ordered to not shoot into the woods.
An assault rifle was found on the ground by the first officers into the woods. Within minutes, another weapon was found.
Broken trees indicated the suspects had traveled in a westerly direction. Police inched their way into a creek bed at 5:45 p.m.
At 6:15, an ambulance was summoned to take away an officer who was overcome by the heat.
The high-stakes drama began around 11:15 a.m. Friday at Mount Zion Church on Wilson Avenue when Jamal Edwards, distraught over the death of his brother, approached church secretary Althea Robinson and requested prayer. Robinson and a female minister prayed with him.
"He thanked us, we all hugged and he left," Robinson said.
Edwards returned around 11:40 a.m. and received permission to make phone calls. He made several calls.
"Then he said, 'F--- it, I don't care no more,' and pointed a gun at me," Robinson said. "I was typing on the computer. Taylor was on the floor cutting up paper."
Taylor is Robinson's 6-year-old granddaughter. Taylor's mother, Tamika, is a corrections officer at the Lorain Correctional Institution.
Robinson said the gunman wanted money and her car. Taylor, when she saw the gun, panicked and started to cry. Her grandmother pulled her behind the desk.
Robinson told the gunman that she had no money and handed him the keys to her 1990 white Cadillac.
"I had to keep my cool because of my granddaughter," the church secretary said. "I stared him right in the eye and said, 'Don't hurt my granddaughter.'"
Her husband, Terry, said the gunman left and picked up "three of his road dogs."
Terry Robinson said the couple celebrated their 33rd anniversary on Thursday. "Then this had to happen."
He said his brother-in-law spotted the Cadillac on Oak at Shehy Street and called 911.
A detective sergeant in a marked cruiser and four members of the Mahoning Valley Law Enforcement Task Force in an unmarked car were fired upon when they approached the Cadillac on South Pearl Street. They returned fire around 12:15 p.m., police said.
Detective Sgt. Doug Bobovnyik said one suspect used an AK-47 assault rifle to shoot out the cruiser's windshield. He said the suspects kept firing after they abandoned the Cadillac on Pearl.
He said a cruiser was also rammed.
The officers who were fired upon were debriefed at the command post after the search was called off.