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Shot fired at 2 agents adds to recent rash of violent crimes

Published: Wed, December 3, 2008 @ 12:00 a.m.

Shootings, a home invastion and a dragging death have kept police busy.


YOUNGSTOWN — A shot fired at two occupants of an unmarked police car missed its mark and set off a pursuit on the South Side.

The shot was fired Tuesday afternoon after a member of the FBI/Mahoning Valley Violent Crimes Task Force gang unit and an agent with the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives started following a dark red 1997 Cadillac on Firnley Avenue around 1:30 p.m.

Once the two men inside the Cadillac realized they were being tailed, they pulled over and the driver aimed a long gun, either a rifle or shotgun, and fired one shot. The passenger had his head out the window and was holding a handgun. No one was injured.

Two tires flattened on the unmarked cruiser as it backed over a curb. The officers inside did not return fire, police said.

Officers in marked patrol cars soon arrived and began a search for the Cadillac, finding it in the driveway of 745 W. LaClede Ave. at 1:50 p.m.

Members of the task force, U.S. Marshals fugitive squad and patrol officers set up a perimeter. Two men found in an upstairs apartment next door were taken into custody and then downtown for questioning by detectives. The men, ages 19 and 21, were released. The Cadillac, owned by a Nelson Avenue woman, was towed and held for detectives, the FBI and ATF.

Elsewhere, two Youngstown men who were shot in the parking lot behind the Coconut Grove, 3229 South Ave., around 7:30 p.m. Monday remained in St. Elizabeth Health Center. Robert Mills, 38, was in satisfactory condition and Matthew Cunningham, 41, in critical condition. A witness said one of the people involved was driving an older-model, white Cadillac.

The Detroit Avenue resident said she looked out her side window to see the victims standing next to Cunningham’s car in the back parking lot of Coconut Grove. She said she then saw the white Cadillac drive past the men slowly and someone in the car open fire. The car sped away on Lucius Avenue.

Several other witnesses who were inside the Coconut Grove as well as the nearby Evergreen Tavern said they also heard shots fired.

One witness said he called 911 after seeing Mills running from the back parking lot yelling that he’d been shot.

Police said they arrived on the scene to find Mills hunched over a pickup truck and bleeding heavily from a gunshot wound to the abdomen. He was unresponsive.

Several minutes later, police noticed Cunningham attempting to leave the parking lot. When officers tried to remove him from the vehicle, they noticed he had suffered two gunshot wounds.

Capt. Ken Centorame, chief of detectives, said police have been unable to speak to either victim.

“It’s difficult to know what happened when you can’t talk to the victims,” he said. “We’re talking to some witnesses right now.”

Centorame said detectives were out Tuesday canvassing the neighborhood for witnesses and clues as to what happened.

It may be weeks before the exact cause of death is known for the man dragged through a fast-food drive-through and along two city blocks early Saturday, said Centorame. The investigation began with a 911 call about 1 a.m. Saturday from a person in the drive-through at McDonald’s restaurant at South Avenue and Midlothian Boulevard, who told the dispatcher there was a body under the car in front of him.

City police have identified and impounded the car they believe was involved.

The Mahoning County Coroner’s office identified the victim as Andrew Culp, 22, of North Main Street, Columbiana. Witnesses said Culp may have been at the Utopia nightclub on Midlothian late Friday or early Saturday.

Culp’s body was sent to Cleveland for an autopsy to determine whether he died as a result of being dragged or was killed in some other manner.

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