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Shooting in shadow of YSU

Published: Mon, February 18, 2013 @ 12:00 a.m.

Gunfire strikes student near dormitory; police arrest 2 suspects from Pittsburgh

By Ed Runyan




Brittany N. Johnson, 23, of Bedford Heights, a nursing student at Youngstown State University, remained in stable condition Sunday evening in St. Elizabeth Health Center, where a girlfriend drove her after she was shot on Pennsylvania Avenue at 2:48 a.m. Sunday.

Youngstown police said the gun was fired by Sylean Wilson, 19, of Pittsburgh, who was arrested a short time later at an apartment building at Pennsylvania and Madison avenues and charged with felonious assault.

The apartment is across the street from YSU’s Lyden House residence hall on the north end of campus.

A YouTube video shows a man running south on Pennsylvania Avenue and firing a gun as he headed toward the apartment building. It also shows a Youngstown police cruiser coming down the street following the man.

A Youngstown police report said the officer observed a man “fire multiple shots upon a dark-colored vehicle. Then vehicle then left the scene south on Pennsylvania.”

The officer confirmed that he followed the man, later identified as Wilson, to the apartment building at 801 Pennsylvania.

The officer was about to enter the building, but a man, later identified as Rashaad Lewis, 19, also of Pittsburgh, closed the door on the officer just after Wilson entered, the report said.

Officers later entered the building and found Wilson among four to five people in a room. They found a handgun between the window panes in the room. Women in the car that was hit by the gunfire later told police at the hospital that the man who matched Wilson’s clothing fired at them.

Lewis was charged with obstructing official business. Wilson also was charged with obstructing official business after police discovered he had given them incorrect identification.

Both men are expected to be arraigned today in Youngstown Municipal Court.

Witnesses who talked to police said Wilson fired his handgun because he was “defending himself because the people he shot at had shot first,” police said.

Meanwhile, a YSU student living farther north on Pennsylvania said he witnessed the entire shootout and that it involved about a dozen shots fired from Wilson’s gun, but he didn’t hear any shots coming from anywhere else and thinks Wilson was trying to hit people in another car, not the females.

“We were all sitting upstairs and heard about four shots,” the man said. “All of a sudden, there was a man with his gun drawn, he was shooting down the street. It was a pretty crazy scene for 3 a.m.,” he said.

The man said he believes Wilson was focusing his attention on a second car coming south on Pennsylvania and firing at that car and that the women were “caught in the crossfire.”

At that point, it looked as if Wilson went up to the women’s car, which was near 825 Pennsylvania Ave., to check on them, he said.

The women told police they first pulled up to the apartment at the corner of Pennsylvania and Madison Avenues “when they heard a series of loud ‘pops.’” A rear-seat passenger said she looked out and saw Wilson “pointing a gun at their car and firing rounds,” so she “yelled at the driver ... to start driving.

“As they began to drive away, ... Johnson, who was seated behind the driver, advised that she was shot and they rushed [her] to St. Elizabeth’s.”

A police officer saw their black Dodge Avenger at the hospital with two bullet holes in the rear driver’s side passenger door.

The commanding officer working at the Youngstown Police Department Sunday evening refused to comment on the case beyond what was contained in the police report, and Police Chief Rod Foley could not be reached to comment.

YSU student Lashawna Jackson of Cleveland, who lives in Lyden Hall and was walking on Pennsylvania Avenue Sunday afternoon with several other students, said the the concern she has about the incident is that Pennsylvania Avenue is used by a lot of students for parking, walking and driving.

“It happened while all the kids were coming home, so it [the shooting] could have happened to anybody,” she said.

“In a sense it’s a bad situation because a girl got hurt, but it could have been worse because a lot of people could have gotten shot,” she said.

She added, however, that she feels “pretty safe” at YSU.

Her friend, Alaina Wells, also of Cleveland, said she’s “not really concerned about my safety because the person involved doesn’t live in the city.” Wells said this incident hasn’t changed her mind about living in Youngstown and attending YSU. “Other than that [the shooting], I love Youngstown,” she said.

Ron Cole, spokesman for the university, said the university sent out an alert by email to the university community about the incident to say that the campus was safe “because the suspects were apprehended so quickly.”

Cole said he doesn’t know where Johnson lives locally. She is a freshman studying pre-nursing who started at the university in the fall of 2011.

Phil Kidd, formerly employed by the non-profit Mahoning Valley Organizing Collaborative, lived at the north end of Pennsylvania Avenue near Wick Park until 18 months ago and still remains active in the Wick Park Neighborhood Association.

Kidd said Pennsylvania Avenue, which is just one block long, had about four arsons around 2009, but the homes were torn down, and since then the street has been “trending in an upward direction” except for an aggravated robbery charge he noticed on a Youngstown Police Department database a couple weeks ago that he found surprising.

Cole said he doesn’t know whether the university has had any concerns regarding that street or neighborhood but that the city and YSU police “patrol that area regularly.’’ Two years ago, on Feb. 6, 2011, Jamail Johnson, a 25-year-old YSU senior, was killed and 11 others were injured at an early-morning house party on Indiana Avenue, which is about three blocks east of Pennsylvania Avenue and also near the YSU campus.


1NoBS(2819 comments)posted 3 years, 5 months ago

The problem ain't the gun - it's the thug trash that's taken over the city.

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2busyman(239 comments)posted 3 years, 5 months ago

Let's not pick on these two fine exchange students from out of state. I am sure these two thugs were here attending a seminar for Black History Month. YSU is a great school with a good security presense in the community. YSU should buy that entire area up to Wick Park and bull doze the entire area and build the next generation of educational facilities to serve the students.

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3CongressWatcher(225 comments)posted 3 years, 5 months ago

Wow! I can't wait to send my kids to YSU! Let me tell you!

A little hint to the new YSU president. It only takes ONE shooting on or near your campus, to cause parents to send their children elsewhere. Get it together or shut the damn doors.

YSU President: "I'm sorry your child got shot or murdered Mr. and Mrs. College Student parent, but things are "trending" in the right direction. Send us your next child and we promise to try and keep them safe."

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4Lifes2Short(3882 comments)posted 3 years, 5 months ago

Nothing but filthy animals that need to be caged up. Useless DNA.

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5republicanRick(1731 comments)posted 3 years, 5 months ago

What I don't understand is that YSU has 200 million dollars in their endowment fund. Why aren't they more agressive in buying distressed properties all around the university and cleaning them up or tearing them down?

If they controlled all the apartments and housing bordering the campus then students-only could be required residents.

Pennsylvania Ave. could be turned into a cul-de-sac and prevent traffic flow by non-residents.

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6islandgrump(59 comments)posted 3 years, 5 months ago

Why was the perp not charged with attempted murder?? Then it would be reduced to felonious assult. What will it be reduced to now?? Discharging a firearm within city limits. Our judicial system is the problem. Not the cure!

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7kurtw(1821 comments)posted 3 years, 5 months ago

Just picked up morning paper and saw headline. If your're thinking of attending College or sending your children to College, Kent is only a 40 minute drive from here and the Trumbull Campus is even closer.

Let the thugs stay behind and kill each other.

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8jgm820(133 comments)posted 3 years, 5 months ago

Just an FYI...neither of the people charged are YSU students. What these upstanding members of Pittsburgh society were doing roaming around the Ytown area is anybody's guess.

This could (and has) happen to any of the off campus housing neighborhoods surrounding Akron or Kent. I think we all know that no matter where you live, you have to be aware of your surroundings.

Kudos to the YSU PD - they do a great job patrolling the campus and non-campus neighborhoods.

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9excel(1302 comments)posted 3 years, 5 months ago

The YSU campus is safe. I REPEAT, THE YSU CAMPUS IS SAFE! There are no drugs, thugs or weapons on campus. What part of this can't you understand? The misunderstanding with the two suspects from Pittsburgh will be investigated.

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10mudduck(31 comments)posted 3 years, 5 months ago

@ EXCEL. Do you attend YSU? How do you know it’s safe? Lot of crimes goes on "unreported" or is close by that doesn’t count against the "campus" crime statistics. I am a current student so I can speak from how I feel and how fellow students feel. No it does not feel safe. Cars are broken into and yes there are burglaries in and around campus.

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11whiterhino(1 comment)posted 3 years, 5 months ago

"Felonious assault" is for when a person intends to severely harm someone without killing them. Guns are murder weapons, and anyone shooting a gun at another person should be at least charged with attempted murder. And if there were 4 or 5 people in the apartment that he fled to, they all should have been arrested as accomplices to attempted murder until the police figured out who's gun it what and what exactly happened.

I live two blocks from there, and I think this is a wonderful neighborhood with a lot of potential. I would never be out at 3:00am, but I walk here with my son during the day and have never felt the least bit concerned for our safety. Most of the people living around there are international grad students. I don't know where these idiots come from on the weekend or who invites them, but I wish they'd find a new 'hood to shoot up.

Ans a big thank you to the YSU police for being so vigilant in patrolling the areas around campus

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12redgpgtp(37 comments)posted 3 years, 5 months ago

These fools should be prosecuted and put in jail for a very long time. Make an example of them and maybe this will end.

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13walter_sobchak(2713 comments)posted 3 years, 5 months ago

Why is it that the individuals in these types of cases all have names that look like they came from a partially solved Wheel of Fortune puzzle?

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14Freeatlast(1991 comments)posted 3 years, 5 months ago

But Ytown will go to the football game

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15DSquared(1788 comments)posted 3 years, 5 months ago

Wasn't there a Vindy article not too long ago about enrollment being down? I wonder why. They need to buy more land in the area and chase the hoodrats out if you are serious about safety. By the way, isn't that a gun free zone??

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16JoeFromHubbard(1803 comments)posted 3 years, 5 months ago

What's the YSU policy on concealed carry?

On second thought, NO, the kids would shoot the wrong person.

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17kurtw(1821 comments)posted 3 years, 5 months ago

for: excell
re: "the misunderstanding with the two suspects from Pittsburgh will be investigated"

Is that what you call what just happened? A "misunderstanding". A student is shot- twelve shots fired in her direction- luckily, she will be ok and all you have to say- it was a "misunderstanding". Who misunderstood, I'd like to know? The shooter, maybe, he thought he was shooting somebody else- a misunderstanding. The victim, maybe- she expected to be safe- a misunderstanding. Her parents, maybe, they sent her to YSU and expected her to be safe- a misunderstanding. The taxpayers, maybe, they support a University and they expect it free from Thuggery- a misunderstanding.

What Planet do you live on, Excell? (Oh, don't tell me- I can guess- you're, obviously, an academic. Bertram was right!)

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18kurtw(1821 comments)posted 3 years, 5 months ago

The accused in this crime is being charged with "felonious assault"- a second degree felony which carries a sentence of 2 to 8 years and a $15,000 penalty.

In other words, a "wrist slap". These creeps, obviously, are drug dealers and, for them, that kind of penalty comes under the heading of "the cost of doing business". The shooter will be back out on the street in 3 or 4 years- and, maybe, next time, his aim will be better and somebody (could be another young person at the threshold of life) will end up in the morgue instead of the hospital.

How would it be if the penalty actually matched the severity of the offense? Have a mandatory sentence of life imprisonment without parole for anyone convicted of gun violence?

With that kind of message out in the streets- thugs might thing twice- or even three times- before pulling the trigger.

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19Lifes2Short(3882 comments)posted 3 years, 5 months ago

Believe it or not, crime and violence happen all over the good ole USofA. I know that is so shocking to some of you that think Youngstown is the only place on the Earth that has crime and violence, but other cities have it to. Amazing, huh?


"Why is it that the individuals in these types of cases all have names that look like they came from a partially solved Wheel of Fortune puzzle?"

Good one! And so true!

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20kurtw(1821 comments)posted 3 years, 5 months ago

I've been checking on-line for the sentencing guidelines for Attempted Murder in Ohio. Best I can find: 25 years to life. Little bit different from 2 to 8 years for felonious assault. My view is that if you fire 12 shots in somebodies direction you're not doing it for target practice- you're doing it to kill.

The "felonious assault" charge for this guy is ridiculous- no more than a "wrist-slap".

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21endthismess(464 comments)posted 3 years, 5 months ago

And of course....let's make completely sure that we always have our much needed daily analysis from "Blabbermouth" the Kidd. What in the world does where he used to live have anything to do with this shooting? Really. What a total pie hole who wants to be a junior crime fighter. Stop Gladys Crabtree.

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22JoeFromHubbard(1803 comments)posted 3 years, 5 months ago

The only problem I see with putting these guys in jail is that it will be my tax dollars keeping them there for the duration.

Can't we swap them for some aliens willing to pick crops?

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23Dagwood(503 comments)posted 3 years, 5 months ago

Put these thugs on a plane, give them a gun, and point them in the direction of Al-Qaida over seas.

They'll crap their pants before their feet hit the ground.

These thugs come in all races, they contribute zero to society. Stealing, Killing and Dealing. Making babies and Living off the taxpayers (Gov Money).

Its time for them to start dodging bullets for our freedom, instead of destroying the progress and well being of society.

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24kurtw(1821 comments)posted 3 years, 4 months ago

I hear you man. Dodge City. The Wild West. The only difference is that in those days the law-abiding people were also armed and had a fighting chance of defending themselves against the thugs.

Ohio is an "open-carry" State. There is nothing- no law- preventing any citizen from walking the streets of their neighborhood- armed. One of the greatest fears criminals have is facing an armed victim- a victim with a weapon stands a good chance of not being a victim

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