A summer night out ended in horror in Dayton, Ohio, where a gunman killed nine people and injured 27 others around 1 a.m. Sunday, August 4, in a popular downtown entertainment district.
It was the second mass killing with a firearm in America in less than 24 hours. Earlier Saturday, a mass shooter fatally shot 20 shoppers and wounded 26 others at a Walmart in El Paso, Texas.
Police chief Richard S. Biehl said the gunman, identified as 24-year-old Connor Betts, was “neutralized” within 30 seconds of opening fire. Betts had no criminal history aside from minor traffic violations, Biehl said. He was wearing a mask and a bulletproof vest, and he also wore hearing protection, like the El Paso gunman. He wielded a rifle using .223 caliber ammunition, which he ordered online from a gun dealer in Texas and had shipped to a local dealer in Ohio, where he picked it up. Biehl said he used 100-round magazines.
“If the Dayton Police had not gotten to the shooter in under a minute, hundreds of people in the Oregon District would be dead today,” Mayor Nan Whaley said.
Ohio used to have a de facto ban on high-capacity magazines, but it was repealed in 2015. Before then, semi-automatic firearms with a magazine capacity of more than 30 rounds fell under the definition of “automatic firearms,” and retailers stopped selling magazines with 31 or more rounds. But four years ago, Republican state lawmakers amended the definition of “automatic firearm” so it no longer includes semi-automatic firearms with a magazine capacity of more than 30 rounds, and retailers began selling them again.
The shooting occurred outside the popular Ned Peppers bar. The Dayton Daily News reports that an eyewitness claims the gunman appeared to try to enter the tavern before he was stopped. The victims range in age from 22 to 57. Six of the nine victims were black. The gunman’s sister, who is white, was among the dead.
Photos from the scene show the artifacts of terror and chaos: a constellation of police evidence markers, a pile of shoes left behind by revelers, a bicycle left in the street.
The Associated Press spoke with a 23-year-old woman who said she was outside another bar across the street when the bullets flew. Earlier that night, she and another young woman had complimented each other on their outfits. Now the other young woman, the witness said, was lying on the ground.
“She herself had been to Ned Peppers the night before,” the AP reported. The young woman had remarked that it was the kind of spot “where you don’t have to worry about someone shooting up the place.”