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UNDER FIRE



Published: Thu, April 23, 2009 @ 12:04 a.m.

Story by KATIE SEMINARA

Photos by WILLIAM D. LEWIS

Vindicator Staff

Two incidents involving semiautomatic rifles within days may have rattled some law enforcement officials and residents.

But these weapons have been on the streets for years, Youngstown and Warren police said.

A house on the 100 block of Cleveland Street on Youngstown’s South Side was hammered by more than 40 bullets Tuesday.

“The majority were from an AK-47 assault rifle,” said Detective Sgt. Ron Rodway.

No one was in the house when it was fired upon.

“This is one of the worst cases of a house being shot up I’ve seen,” Rodway said. “The house was just riddled with bullets.”

One week earlier, a similar weapon was used in a drive-by shooting in the 2000 block of Wick Street Southeast in Warren.

The April 13 incident left one child injured and two dead; an 11-year-old boy and a 26-year-old man.

“It’s very rare to see that kind of firepower,” said Capt. Tim Bowers, acting chief of Warren.

Although the shootings spanned just eight days, area police departments believe the incidents are isolated and don’t believe they are witnessing an increase in assault weapons crimes.

“We’ve taken the same number off the streets the past three years, and this year is on the same tier with those numbers,” said Bowers.

“Fifteen years ago I investigated a triple homicide where an assault rifle was used. It’s happening now and it happened then, all we can do is try to prevent it from happening again,” he said.

Of the weapons confiscated in Youngstown, Officer Nick Marciano estimated that 35 percent are rifles and shotguns.

“I don’t know that there’s necessarily been any increase. These weapons have been on the streets for decades,” said Detective Sgt. Jason Simon, adding anyone can buy or steal them.

“Just like you can buy a microwave or TV, you can get guns” added Marciano.

A rifle was used during a Feb. 22 shooting at two homes on the 900 block of Delaware Avenue. The shooting resulted in a 6-year-old boy being shot in the foot and left one man dead after he was shot in the head, according to Vindicator files.

After crimes of this nature, officers confiscate various guns that wind up in evidence vaults at the station.

The vaults hold rifles such as AK-47s, M-16s and SKSs, as well as 9mm handguns, with brand names such as Hi-Point and Smith & Wesson.

Gun dealers report people are buying firearms and plenty of ammunition. The downfall for legitimate gun shops is that many guns on the streets are purchased at gun shows from private owners, said Ron Oldland, owner of Expert Outfitters Gun Shop.

Oldland can control the quality of weapons sold in his shop and who purchases them, but anyone of legal age can purchase ammunition. The availability of ammunition at the store has decreased due to the nationwide increase in firearm sales.

“We used to be able to get cases, now we’re lucky to get one box,” Oldland said.

Gun owners have resorted to scouring the area gun shops for ammo, so when they find it, instead of buying one box, they are buying three to five boxes, he said.

It’s a bit unnerving to know that criminals who may have purchased assault weapons from someone peddling out of their trunk can purchase ammo, he said. Oldland has also seen a number of older men come in and purchase assault weapons.

“They say, ‘We never thought we would own one of these, but we don’t want to be told we can’t have one,’” he said of their concern that gun and ammo bans may be enacted by Congress or President Barack Obama’s administration.

Marciano added, “With the possible cut backs in the police department, people are worried about their own house.”

No matter the reason for gun purchasing, Simon said most people who buy guns are responsible and take the classes on gun safety.

“Everyone has a right to protect their household,” he said. “It’s not really the gun, it’s the person and their intent.”

Youngstown officers carry Sig Sauer P226 40 caliber handguns, which is the standard for law enforcers. The recent activity with rifles hasn’t prompted conversation on switching to a higher-powered weapon, Simon said.

In Warren, however, those concerns have been discussed.

“I’ve been approached by several officers who say they don’t want to be out-gunned on the street,” said Bowers.

ASSAULT WEAPON CRIMES

Two incidents within the last week involving high-powered weapons shook Youngstown and Warren.

The following include those incidents and others:

April 21, 2009

A house on the 100 block of Cleveland Street in Youngstown was fired on more than 40 times. “The majority were from an AK-47 assault rifle,” said Detective Sgt. Ron Rodway.

April 13, 2009

A similar weapon was used in a drive-by shooting in the 2000 block of Wick Street Southeast in Warren. One child was injured and two are dead; an 11-year-old boy and a 26-year-old man. Police believe someone drove past the home indiscriminately firing a high-powered assault weapon into the dwelling.

April 3, 2009

Officers were called to a house on the 1700 block of Southwest Boulevard in reference to numerous shots fired. The victim said he and his son were in the house when unknown suspects began shooting the rear of the house.

February 22, 2009

A 6-year-old boy was shot in the foot, and a man died after being shot in the head after shooting in two homes on the 900 block of Delaware Avenue in Youngstown.

December 2008

A Waynesburg (Pa.) University student said a gunman took his cellphone, earrings and watch. The 19-year-old victim told police he was going to a party on Ohio Avenue, Youngstown. As he approached his friend’s car, which was at the curb in the 1600 block of Stewart Avenue, a man wearing a ski mask emerged and pointed an AK-47 at the man and his friend.

November 2008

Police were called to Hamilton Street and Austin Avenue Southwest in Warren, near Quinby Park, where a pedestrian reported being hit in the arm by gunfire coming from a AK-47 being fired from a van.

SOURCE: Vindicator files and Warren and Youngstown police reports

SEE ALSO:Suspect in slayings glorifies movie gangsters on Net.


Comments

1cambridge(2919 comments)posted 5 years ago

A few weeks ago I wrote checks for four families that had ten kids loose their police officer fathers to some maniac in Oakland. He was an ex con with a AK-47, He shot five cops and only one lived. The memorial was the sadist thing I've ever seen.

I don't understand why assault weapons are available to the public. I'm not against people having guns for hunting but you have to draw a line and I think AK's are on the wrong side of the line.

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2Tugboat(759 comments)posted 5 years ago

Marciano added, “With the possible cut backs in the police department, people are worried about their own house.”

Anyone remember Jane Jacobs book 'The Death and Life of Great American Cities?' She wrote, "No amount of police can enforce civilization where the normal, casual enforcement of it has broken down."

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3Tugboat(759 comments)posted 5 years ago

"... the public peace -- the sidewalk and street peace -- of cities is not kept primarily by the police ... It is kept primarily by an intricate, almost unconscious, network of voluntary controls and standards among the people themselves, and enforced by the people themselves. In some city areas -- older public housing projects and streets with very high population turnover are often conspicuous examples -- the keeping of public sidewalk law and order is left almost entirely to the police and special guards. Such places are jungles. No amount of police can enforce civilization where the normal, casual enforcement of it has broken down."

-- Jane Jacobs The Death and Life of Great American Cities

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4extremeaudio412(2 comments)posted 5 years ago

Reinstating a gun ban is like taking away your freedom of speech because someone uses foul language. If you look at the background of some of these people committing these crimes it will show they are the BLIGHT in this city. Dont worry about the abandoned houses, worry about the people that are destroying them and remove that BLIGHT from the city. Who cares about where the BLIGHT goes. The liberal judges need to grow a pair of B-LLS and tell the BLIGHT in this city commiting these crimes if you kill someone you will die the same way. There should be no more sitting in jail for 8 yrs getting served 3 meals a day on a TAX PAYERS dime for murdering a kid walking down the street. We need to bring back an eye for an eye. My point of this rant is dont punish me and take away my 2nd amendment because of BLIGHT in the city murdering people and destroying our once beautiful city.

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5apollo(1227 comments)posted 5 years ago

Freedom of speech?

Sorry, but free speech doesn't kill and maim tens of thousands.

No reason a civilized society needs assault weapons. More civilized countries in Europe have gun bans and don't have near the gun crimes that we have.

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6extremeaudio412(2 comments)posted 5 years ago

OHHH really. Check the gun crimes in Chicago and Washington DC that have strict gun control and tell me what you find.. How about in Europe that have gun control look at the murder rate in which knives were used. My point is no matter what you want to ban. if someone wants to kill someone they will find a way to do so. So dont pass the buck on the law abiding citizens like my self. Get the BLIGHT off the streets and you wont have a problem. And another reason murder rates are lower in other coutries is because they DONT have the LIBERAL judges that we have that set murderers free after 10yrs. We need to stiffen our death sentance and set an example. How about the guy that murdered someone and dismembered their body and he is complaining that lethal injection is too painful. I say do to him what he did to that innocent person

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7scrooge(563 comments)posted 5 years ago

You can't keep the guns out just like you can't keep the drugs out.
Extreme is absolutely correct.... get rid of the dredges of society and the gun issue will take care of itself.
Now where did i put my bazooka?..........................

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