LIMA — Men linked to crime or violence such as shooting or killing people were confronted by an trauma doctor, prosecutors, police and a religious leader Friday hoping one of them got the point across.
Eleven men were in the courtroom to listen to a simple message: stop the violence.
“We don’t want you dead and we don’t want to hurt you and we don’t want you in prison. Stop the violence,” Assistant Ohio Attorney General Robert Fiatal told the men.
Lima Police Chief Kevin Martin told the hand-picked group, all who committed some type of crime who are connected to others who commit violent crimes, to stop shooting people, stop killing and stop the acts of violence.
Anyone who shoots a gun in an act of violence will get special attention from police and prosecutors, Martin said.
“We will focus our full resources on you,” the chief said.
Martin told the men their names are well known to police.
“You are here today because we know who you are, who you hang out with, who you deal with and the activities you are involved in,” he said.
The chief also told them he does not want to see the men killed or in prison.
The men were called to Allen County Common Pleas Court with the help of their probation or parole officer. All have some link to criminal and violent activity, and all were identified as dangerous men or with connection to dangerous people.
Their names were not read during the public meeting set up by the Ohio Attorney General’s Office. This was part of an initiative several years in the making to address gun crimes and the people who commit the vast majority of gun crimes.
Fiatal said a study showed a very small number of people commit 75 percent of the violent crime in any given city. This initiative was created to address that problem and try to stop it. Various people with various backgrounds were brought in to address the men in hopes one of them connects with one of the offenders.
“It’s a collective message and whatever works. We don’t care what works we just want it to work,” Fiatal said.
Fiatal sad there is no politics in the initiative and it is not targeting people who lawfully possess guns, only those who use guns to commit crimes. The initiative has been successful in other parts of the country, he said.
Allen County Prosecutor Juergen Waldick asked the men how many of them had children.
“Is this what you want for your kids?” he asked.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Alissa Sterling told the men if the other pleas to stop the violence didn’t reach them Friday, perhaps she could with a reminder of the federal firearms sentencing guidelines.
Federal crimes carry tough sentences, sometimes up to life in prison — and that’s in a prison far away from Lima, she said.
Sterling gave examples of local men including one serving an 11-year sentence in a Florida prison. That distance means it’s likely too difficult for his family to visit.
Sterling said she is leaving with the names of all 11 men. She said if any of them commits a crime with a gun, she will make sure the case is charged at the federal level, which the northwestern Ohio District ranks fourth in the nation on prosecuting gun crimes.
“When I get a call that you picked up a gun, it’s going to be the United States versus you,” she said.
St. Rita’s trauma Dr. Michael Sheehan showed graphic photos of gunshot victims and the tools he uses to open a victim’s chest or cut through the skull to repair the damage.
Sheehan also showed pictures of the permanent injuries bullets do, including shatter bones and paralyze people. Some gunshot victims wear a diaper for life and need someone else to take care of them around the clock, he said.
“This could be you or someone you shot,” he said. “Don’t be my patient and don’t make a patient for me or the rest of the community to take care of.”
Tammy Colon of Coleman Behavior Health Services explained to the men she wants to help. She encouraged them to strive for something better.
“Was this your dream? Was this your vision? Being identified as one of the most notorious criminals in your community, was that your goal?” she asked the men.
Colon told the men they deserved better than this, and so did their families.
“Whatever we have to offer you, gentlemen, is yours,” she said.
Pastor Daniel Hughes encouraged the men to reach out to local religious leaders and turn around their life.
“Let’s change this. Let’s flip the script,” Hughes said.