Looking Back: 2019 was a year of tragedy for Dayton – and a year of heroes

Year in Review
Levitt Pavilion

Levitt Pavilion holds vigil for Oregon District mass shooting victims (WDTN Photo)

DAYTON, Ohio (WDTN) – Scottish philosopher Thomas Carlysle wrote in 1843 a quote that’s been cited for nearly two centuries: “When it gets dark enough, you can see the stars.”

2019 was a tragic year for the city of Dayton. The Memorial Day tornado outbreak was the worst natural disaster to hit the area since the 1913 flood. The Oregon District shooting in August killed nine and injured 27. Both stories made headlines across the world. The killing of Dayton Police Detective Jorge Del Rio in the line of duty in November was a tragic ending to a tragic year.

But through the tragedy the stars shined: Communities rallied together and volunteers crossed communities to help clear debris and volunteer collecting food and donations. Miami Lanes bowling alley in West Milton became the center of a citizen volunteer and donation effort. Children in St. Marys were raising money for Celina tornado victims, raising $1,200.

LOOKING TO 2020: Six officials and residents discuss the city moving into the new year

The Oregon District shooting was stopped by Dayton police seconds after it began, in some cases charging the shooter in just bicycle gear. Six Dayton police officers received the Medal of Valor from President Donald Trump for immediately charging the shooter. A local bouncer Jeremy Ganger saved dozens of lives by whisking people inside Ned Peppers restaurant to keep them safe and then held the door shut to keep the shooter from entering. People on the scene shielded their customers in the back of their restaurants and jumped into action to deliver CPR and work to save victims before ambulances arrived, just among the heroics Daytonians and people from the Miami Valley shows in the face of danger.

February 14 – Montgomery County goes under boil advisory 

“The pipe was 20 to 25 years old,” Nan Whaley told 2 NEWS’ Devero Bogart in April. “It shouldn’t have broke, frankly.”  

The pipe was under the Keowee Street Bridge and the break led to millions of gallons of drinking water leaked from the system. For four days, Dayton and portions of Montgomery County were under a boil advisory, as the system also supported communities outside of Dayton. Portions of north Dayton and northern Montgomery County didn’t have any water for a day.

Once water levels receded crews were able to access the pipe and fix it. The city paid $850,000 to an out-of-state company for repairs.

May 1 – Corruption scandal snares local officials, businessman 

Former Dayton City Commissioner Joey Williams, then Director of Dayton’s Minority Business Assistance Center Roshawn Winburn, former State Rep. Clayton Luckie and local businessman Brian Higgins were indicted in Southern Ohio District Court on various federal charges of fraud. Williams pleaded guilty, with his sentencing scheduled for Jan. 29, 2020. Luckie pleaded guilty on July 2. He was sentenced to four months in prison on Nov. 15. Winburn and Higgins both pleaded not guilty and will go to trial in early 2020.  

May 25 – Klan-related group holds rally in Dayton 

The KKK-affiliated Honorable Sacred Knights of Indiana held a rally at Courthouse Square. Worries of a repeat of the 2017 “Unite the Right” Charlottesville rally which saw violence and one person dead were avoided. Only nine members of the group showed and Dayton responded with 600 police officers with officers assisting from the University of Dayton, the Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office, Toledo, Cleveland, Cincinnati, Columbus and the Ohio State Highway Patrol. No arrests were made and no injuries were reported.  

May 27-28 – The Memorial Day Tornado Outbreak 

Two days after a KKK-affiliated group protested in Dayton, a major tornado outbreak hit the Miami Valley the evening of Memorial Day and into the morning TuesdayAn EF-4 tornado ripped through Brookville, Trotwood, Harrison Twp., Northridge, North Dayton, Riverside and Beavercreek. Sixteen tornadoes were part of the outbreak, including an EF-2 tornado that ran parallel to the EF-4 tornado through Butler Twp., an EF-3 tornado in West Milton, and an EF-3 tornado that left one dead in Celina. The EF-4 tornado destroyed homes from Brookville to Beavercreek and crossed I-75, destroying businesses and wrecking homes and subdivisions. Scene 75 has been closed since the tornado and one shopping center on North Dixie Drive was destroyed as well as a Northridge Elementary School. The storms caused an estimated $1 billion in damage.  

A water main break under the Keowee Street Bridge led to a boil advisory for Dayton and much of Montgomery County. The leak from the broken pipe lost millions of gallons of drinkable water. Parts of Northern Dayton and Northern Montgomery County were without water while the leak was found. Every municipality on the county water system was under a boil advisory for four days until the leak was contained. The city contracted a company from West Chester to fix the leak, costing $850,000.  

Despite the wreckage, the communities rallied, and volunteers began to fill areas hit by tornadoes to offer help. The bowling alley in West Milton became a default communications and donation center. A group of 7-to-10 year old children started a lemonade stand and raised $1,200 for Celina tornado victimsDoctors at Wright State University offered free counseling for those who suffered  mental trauma left by the storms. The Trotwood Mayor and other city officials worked to keep those with damaged homes in the city. Community groups worked to collect children for toys who lost theirs in the storms.  

Trotwood, the city most impacted by the storms, rallied behind its football team, which won the D-III state football title.  

Aug. 4 – The Oregon District Shooting 

Nine people were killed and 27 injured the night of Saturday, Aug. 4 when Connor Betts opened fire on a busy Oregon District crowd. Among the victims was Betts’ sister Megan.  

Those killed were: Beatrice Warren-CurtisMonica BrickhouseSaeed SalehMegan BettsThomas McNicholsLois OglesbyLogan TurnerDerrick FudgeNicholas Cumer

The tragedy didn’t occur without the absence of heroes. Six Dayton police officers received Medals of Valor when President Trump visited Dayton and met victims of the shooting and first responders. Dayton police responded within seconds of the shooting, several without body armor or other protection, and shot down Betts as he attempted to enter a bar filled with dozens of people.  

Guy Fragmin, who owns 416 Diner, shielded customers while the shooting happened. 

Sarah Reeves and Ben Fox, customers inside the 416 Diner, immediately ran into the street after the shots stopped and performed CPR on victims.   

Jeremy Ganger, an area professional wrestler, was working as a bouncer at Ned Peppers as the shooting occurred. He ushered in dozens of people off the street, and then held the door closed as Betts tried to get into the restaurant. Ganger’s bravery and timing allowed police officers to shoot down Betts and saved dozens inside the restaurant. Ganger was honored with an actual WWE NXT title belt, presented to him by Paul “Triple H” Levesque prior to a show. Levesque gave a speech in Ganger’s honor and then aired a video to the crowd showing news coverage of Ganger jumping into action.  

Aug. 25 – Gem City Shine

Just weeks after the mass shooting in the Oregon Distric, longtime Yellow Springs resident Dave Chappelle organized the Gem City Shine event to raise money for victims and celebrate the Oregon District. Among celebrities who appeared or performed were Stevie Wonder, Chance the Rapper, Jon Stewart, Michael Che and Thundercat. Kanye West and Kim Kardashian came to Dayton the Friday before the show, stayed three days visiting local restaurants and sites and performed his “Sunday Service” at the Riverscape.  

Sept. 3 – Sept. 12 – The Skylar Richardson Trial

Skylar Richardson was found not guilty of murdering her newborn daughter in an emotional trial that lasted two weeks at the Warren County Court of Common Pleas. Richardson’s case became a national news event after she buried her stillborn baby after it having a premature birth in the bathroom of her parents’ home while she was a high school senior.  

Richardson was charged with aggravated murder, involuntary manslaghter and child endangerment. She was found guilty of one charge of abuse of a corpse and sentenced to three years probation.  

Nov. 7 – Dayton Detective Jorge Del Rio dies

Jorge Del Rio, a detective with the Dayton Police Department, was mortally wounded while assisting the DEA on a bust at a home. Del Rio survived three days after he was shot but succumbed to his injuries on Nov. 7. Thousands attended Del Rio’s funeral at UD Arena while Daytonians gathered along the procession route to honor the fallen officer. Three suspects have been indicted.  

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