‘A life doesn’t mean anything to them:’ Grandmother of Ohio teen calls for change after wave of gun violence

A wave of gun violence that has killed four young men in the past month continued Monday night when a 19-year-old was shot and killed and a 17-year-old was injured during a shooting at a local gas station.

The great grandmother of one of the recent victims said she believes there are a variety of reasons why a handful of teenagers and young adults have been injured by gunfire and other criminal activity in Dayton and the surrounding area.

“A life doesn’t mean anything to them because they don’t know what the definition of life is,” said Mary Jo Cook, the great grandmother of 15-year-old J’Yon Kolby-Lee Manson-Coleman, who was killed Thursday in Harrison Twp. “They haven’t learned what is life. They say ‘I don’t care if I die, I’ll go down dying for what I believe in,’ but you ask what you believe in and they can’t say.”

On Monday, Dayton Police responded to the Shell gas station at 3707 Germantown St. on a shooting report at around 10:15 p.m.

“Upon arrival officers located two males, a 17-year-old and a 19-year-old, who had sustained gunshot wounds,” Dayton Police Lt. Jason Hall said. “Dayton Fire Department paramedics were requested to the scene, and the 19-year-old male was found to be deceased.”

The 17-year-old was taken to the hospital with non-life-threatening injuries.

“At this time, the motive and circumstances leading up to this death are still being determined,” Hall said. “We encourage anyone who may have information or witnessed this incident to contact the Dayton Police Department at 937-333-COPS or Miami Valley CrimeStoppers at 937-222-STOP.”

The identities of those shot were not released Tuesday. Police would not say if the shooting was connected to previous incidents.

Dayton Police have been investigating gun violence associated with at least two groups over the last few weeks. So far, police believe one of the recent homicides and multiple other criminal incidents involve a dispute between those groups, Hall said.

“Officers and detectives are working diligently to identify the underlying motives and relationships of the involved parties in an effort to curb these incidents, and we are closely coordinating with our regional partners to further these goals,” Hall said in a statement.

It is still unclear which shootings and crimes are connected to the back and forth between the groups.

The violence among young people is out of control, Cook said. She blames mental illness, drugs and the lack of religious values for the crime wave involving youth.

J’Yon was found dead in a vehicle in the 3600 block of Michigan Avenue. An unidentified man was also shot and taken to the hospital. The Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office said they did not have new information to release Tuesday.

Cook said investigators have told the family that her grandson didn’t deserve to die.

“They say he’s the victim, and that’s all they would tell us,” Cook said. “In the situation and whatever took place, he’s the victim. We don’t know why because it’s still an open case and still investigating ... but they said no doubt about, he’s a victim.”

The grandmother said she will remember J’Yon as a charismatic boy who always wanted to be on the go. She said his mother died from the flu a few years ago and it badly affected him. Cook was raising and taking care of him and his seven siblings.

She said J’Yon loved to play basketball and, while he did get into some fights, she never knew him to be involved with firearms and wasn’t involved in any altercation where she feared for his life.

“My grandson, we loved him. He was fun, he was goofy. He thought he was going to be a rap star,” Cook said. “I’m going to miss him tremendously because he was my help. He was tall, he could reach up and get things for me out of the top cabinet. He could do things, he sometimes just wanted to ride with me and I take him to the grocery store because he was so strong. The other kids just loved him. He has seven sisters and brothers that really loved him and we thought we would all be together for a very long time.”

Cook said she believes young people don’t understand the weight they will have to carry for the rest of their lives when they take a life. She said she hopes area youth decide to turn their attention from violence to finding a way to accomplish something positive and productive.

Recent shootings

April 18: Dayton Police say 16-year-old Kamareon D. O’Berry died at Miami Valley Hospital after being shot near Westwood Elementary School on Northland Avenue.

April 24: A 15-year-old and a 17-year-old were shot and injured on Community Drive and Old Troy Pike in Riverside. Authorities said the shooting was not a random incident.

May 8: Kameron Dewberry, 18, was shot and killed in the 400 block of West Hudson Avenue after an argument, police say. Dwayne J. Jones Jr., 18, was arrested and indicted on a murder charge.

May 12: A 17-year-old boy was shot and critically injured on Kumler Avenue. That investigation led to an officer-involved shooting on Lexington Avenue. Police were searching for another 17-year-old suspected in the original shooting.

May 12: Three teens died in a car crash that reportedly stemmed from an attempted carjacking in Riverside. Authorities say the man the teens tried to carjack did not comply and followed the boys who eventually crashed on Airway Road. A fourth teen has been charged with aggravated robbery.

Riverside police said the crash is connected to the April 24 shooting and other shootings in Dayton.

May 13: 15-year-old J’Yon Kolby-Lee Manson-Coleman was shot and killed in Harrison Twp. He was found dead in a vehicle in the 3600 block of Michigan Avenue.

May 16: The Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office says a juvenile girl was playing outside a Harrison Twp. home when she was grazed by a bullet on her forehead and hand. The Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office investigators responded to the 1900 block of Palisades Drive and learned there was a large fight in the area before the shooting.

May 17: A 19-year-old man died and a 17-year-old was injured after a Monday night shooting at a gas station. The identities of those hurt were not released Tuesday.

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