Rash of teen shootings plague Lima

LIMA — As most teenagers anxiously await the last day of classes before summer break so they can stay up late talking to friends and do other fun things, a small but growing number of teens are waking up in a much different life each day.

They are waking up behind bars where they may be for years instead of thinking about hot days swimming, barbecuing with the family, or playing games in the yard before returning to finish high school or leaving for college.

Recently, there has been a rash of shootings by teenagers, none of them old enough to buy a gun. They shoot at each other — never for a good reason — and sometimes the results can be deadly.

Last week, Albert McDowell pleaded guilty to voluntary manslaughter with a gun for killing another teenager a year ago at Meat City on Kibby Street. He was 16 at the time and remains a chief suspect in another murder, the killing of Kylil Florence in January 2015, but he has not been charged in that slaying.

A now-15-year-old girl was in Allen County Juvenile Court on Wednesday accused of setting up a fake cellphone sale to rob a woman on March 4. During the robbery for $150, the girl was accused of putting a gun to the woman’s head, taking her money and then pulling the trigger, which more than scared the woman.

Judge Glenn Derryberry of Allen County Juvenile Court said he would take some time to review the evidence before ruling whether there is enough to link the girl to the crime and possibly send the case to adult court. If he finds enough evidence, he must hold another hearing to determine whether the girl stands a chance at rehabilitation in the juvenile system. If not, he will send the case to adult court where she faces a stiff sentence that likely would last longer than her life has been so far.

The girl’s brother, who is 16, gave her the gun. He pleaded to robbery Wednesday and his case will stay at juvenile court. He faces being held in a juvenile prison until he is 21.

On Wednesday, three teenagers also had hearings for a Mother’s Day shootout on North Collett Street that stemmed from an argument. No one was hit but cars and houses were struck as three teens sprayed bullets at each other.

Those are the latest rash of shooting incidents involving teens not afraid to use guns.

“Recently we have seen an upturn in juvenile gun violence. I don’t know if it’s a trend or a cluster of cases within the last few months,” said Juergen Waldick, prosecutor for Allen County.

Waldick, who has been prosecuting for 31 years, said he is seeing more and more children with guns committing violent crimes. He also said it seems to be a trend that is happening across the nation for reasons yet unknown.

Lima Police Detective Steve Stechschulte said it’s sometimes hard for people to believe a child, some who look very young, could actually could do something so bad.

“It’s hard to imagine sometimes,” he said.

But the reality is it’s happening.

“Over the years I think they are desensitize to violence and gun violence. I think more are prone to pull the trigger. They don’t see the long term of it,” Stechschulte said.

Those chances can carry very hard consequences, up to life in prison if prosecutors seek to try the teens as adults. Many go away for a decade or more.

Waldick said he’s seeing teens who have no remorse at all for their actions. McDowell is one of those. He left the courtroom smiling and laughing despite the fact the plea is going to put him in prison for at least a decade.

The three accused of the Mother’s Day shootout were caught on video camera and with witnesses, all three can be identified, Stechschulte said. The three are between the ages of 15 and 17 and all entered the equivalent of a not guilty plea in Juvenile Court Wednesday.

Prosecutors are seeking to try the three involved in the Mother’s Day shooting as adults as well as the 14-year-old robber.

Stechschulte said there’s a group of teens known as “hotheads” on the street who are quick to pull a gun and shoot. He said that does not mean it’s all children in a gang, just a handful will pull guns. He said there are gang members who stay away from guns and would rather be the drug runner or the one who fights with his fists.

Derryberry could not comment on any pending cases but in general said he also has noticed an increase in cases involving children shooting guns. He said he never really hears a good reason in court.

“I don’t know what is going on out there,” he said.

Derryberry said police officials also have been solving a lot of cases lately, which translates to more defendants facing justice.

Stechschulte said police officials have been able to identify suspects in a number of the shootings lately some of it thanks to good old police work of pounding the pavement finding witnesses but there’s new methods such as the ever-increasing number of video cameras being installed that sometimes catch the violence as it happens and help police identify the teens.

The judge said he is seeing younger defendants, such as 14- and 15-year-old children committing crimes with guns, also.

Stechschulte said there always has been teens committing violent crimes but lately it seems like more have been involved in shootings. He recalls a 13-year-old boy raping a 90-year-old woman in 2011 and a 14-year-old killing another teen in 2010 but said the crimes today are happening more frequent.

What worries Stechschulte the most is the shootouts. Oftentimes, teens fire numerous rounds missing the intended target. But a bullet does not just stop when it misses, it keeps going until something stops it. Sometimes a round hits an innocent person, such as was the case in an early April shooting in the 500 block of Hope Street when a man was hit by a stray bullet going through his wall, he said.

Derryberry said he never hears a good explanation of where a child got a gun. In his court as in the adult courtrooms, it’s often someone on the streets the defendant claims to only know by a street name.

While a person under 21 or someone with a criminal record cannot legally purchase a gun from a store, they can obtain guns on the streets and do. Many of the guns are stolen in burglaries and then sold on the streets by someone wanting to buy drugs.

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A now-15-year-old girl appeared in Allen County Juvenile Court on Wednesday at a probable cause hearing. She is accused of putting a gun to a woman’s head and robbing her.
http://www.limaohio.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/54/2017/05/web1_Teen-robber.jpgA now-15-year-old girl appeared in Allen County Juvenile Court on Wednesday at a probable cause hearing. She is accused of putting a gun to a woman’s head and robbing her. Greg Sowinski | The Lima News

Albert McDowell, now 17, pleaded guilty earlier this month to voluntary manslaughter with a gun for killing another teen at Meat City last year. He faces more than a decade in prison when he is sentenced later this year.
Greg Sowinski | The Lima News

http://www.limaohio.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/54/2017/05/web1_Albert-McDowell-16-1-1.jpg
Albert McDowell, now 17, pleaded guilty earlier this month to voluntary manslaughter with a gun for killing another teen at Meat City last year. He faces more than a decade in prison when he is sentenced later this year.
Greg Sowinski | The Lima News

Greg Sowinski | The Lima News

A teenager accused of spraying bullets at another teen during a gun battle in the street on North Collett Street on Mother’s Day appeared at a hearing in Allen County Juvenile Court on Wednesday. Prosecutors are seeking to try him as an adult.
Greg Sowinski | The Lima News
http://www.limaohio.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/54/2017/05/web1_Wyche.jpgA teenager accused of spraying bullets at another teen during a gun battle in the street on North Collett Street on Mother’s Day appeared at a hearing in Allen County Juvenile Court on Wednesday. Prosecutors are seeking to try him as an adult.
Greg Sowinski | The Lima News
Greg Sowinski | The Lima News

A teenager accused of spraying bullets at another teen during a gun battle in the street on North Collett Street on Mother’s Day appeared at a hearing in Allen County Juvenile Court on Wednesday. Prosecutors are seeking to try him as an adult.
Greg Sowinski | The Lima News
http://www.limaohio.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/54/2017/05/web1_Rakeem.jpgA teenager accused of spraying bullets at another teen during a gun battle in the street on North Collett Street on Mother’s Day appeared at a hearing in Allen County Juvenile Court on Wednesday. Prosecutors are seeking to try him as an adult.
Greg Sowinski | The Lima News
Greg Sowinski | The Lima News

A teenager accused of spraying bullets at another teen during a gun battle in the street on North Collett Street on Mother’s Day appeared at a hearing in Allen County Juvenile Court on Wednesday. Prosecutors are seeking to try him as an adult.
Greg Sowinski | The Lima News
http://www.limaohio.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/54/2017/05/web1_Kobe.jpgA teenager accused of spraying bullets at another teen during a gun battle in the street on North Collett Street on Mother’s Day appeared at a hearing in Allen County Juvenile Court on Wednesday. Prosecutors are seeking to try him as an adult.
Greg Sowinski | The Lima News
Greg Sowinski | The Lima News

Albert McDowell, now 17, pleaded guilty earlier this month to voluntary manslaughter with a gun for killing another teen at Meat City last year. He faces more than a decade in prison when he is sentenced later this year.
http://www.limaohio.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/54/2017/05/web1_Albert-McDowell-31-.jpgAlbert McDowell, now 17, pleaded guilty earlier this month to voluntary manslaughter with a gun for killing another teen at Meat City last year. He faces more than a decade in prison when he is sentenced later this year. Greg Sowinski | The Lima News

By Greg Sowinski

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Reach Greg Sowinski at 567-242-0464 or on Twitter @Lima_Sowinski.