LIMA — Mike Gooding walked to the mini-market to get some fresh air. He came back with a bullet.
“I never thought in a million years I’d get shot,” he said.
Gooding had been heading to Vine Street Mini Market via Reese Avenue Tuesday afternoon when he felt a sharp pain in his side. The 62-year-old took off at a run.
“I didn’t want to die in the street,” he explained. “I wanted to die in the house.”
Luckily, the bullet never caused any serious injury as the rogue projectile lost most of its momentum before it was stopped by Gooding’s leather coat, but the experience has pushed Gooding and his family to voice their concerns over what their childhood neighborhood has become.
“My brother almost lost his life just because he was walking to the store,” Mike’s brother, Terry Gooding, said.
The Goodings grew up in the 1960s and ’70s when Lima was growing. Terry, now 66, said he remembers the hustle and bustle fondly — playing basketball at Whittier School with neighbors, watching the city’s industrial vibrancy as he walked back and forth to Lima Senior — but as Terry entered adulthood, his path diverged from Lima’s.
As the first in his family to graduate college, he ended up working as a corporate spokesman tasked with crafting communication plans for manufacturing companies. Eventually, his career brought him to Augusta, Georgia.
So when he came back to Lima for the Gooding Thanksgiving this year, he found a different version of Lima. In some neighborhoods, he said he’s seen drug addicts turning tricks. In others, family members have set up spotlights and cameras to discourage theft, and near his mother’s house, he’s watched neighbors battle rodents and raccoon infestations caused by blighted housing.
“It’s really distressing to me when I come back,” Terry Gooding said. “To me, it’s just sad when you grow up here, and you can’t come visit and walk down the street.”
This Thanksgiving, Gooding and his family are working through his mother’s fight with dementia. As the disease worsens, the 10 siblings have created care-schedules to balance the load. Mike, who now lives in Kentucky, had been in town to give his oldest brother Tom a little time to relax. So when Mike came back from the market fearing for his life, the event was an alarming one as the official lines of inquiry and a hospital checkup disrupted the family holiday.
Mike said police told him the bullet that hit him most likely either ricocheted before hitting him or lost momentum as it passed through the other victim of the shooting, Leroy Smith.
“The only two people who got hit were two innocent bystanders,” Mike Gooding said.
Like many shootings in the past few years, Lima police are asking the community for information on the incident.
“I don’t know what can be done, but I think the community really needs to rally,” Terry Gooding said. “It’s so distressing to me now just to see the decline of the city, the decline of the south end.”
What can be done
Terry Gooding, who worked with Mayor David Berger early in his career, said he has a lot of respect for city administration and the local police force, but noted there must be some things that could be done better.
“Whatever that better is I don’t know,” Gooding said. “But something needs to be done.”
Gooding suggested that part of the crime issue may stem from the younger people unable to see or secure economic opportunities, which pushes them toward drug use and crime.
“The community just needs to do a better job of rallying together and improving the conditions for everybody in this community,” Gooding said. “Whatever it needs to be, whatever it takes to try to encourage the people in the south end to let them know that we’re not forgetting about you.”
Reach Josh Ellerbrock at 567-242-0398.