Middletown Police Chief Rodney Muterspaw held up a photo of Teresa Shields, shot and killed as a passenger in a car leaving a New Year’s Eve party, and said: “She deserves justice.”
The chief on Tuesday addressed two deadly events that occurred Sunday morning in the city, but he stressed that crime in Middletown has declined the last two years and the recent outbreak is a “blip on the screen.”
Dora Bronston, president of the Middletown NAACP, encouraged residents to be “more watchful” and to assist Middletown officers.
“We can’t stop the crime if we allow people to still be criminals,” she said. “It’s our duty to report what’s going on. I think it’s for our safety and our children’s safety. Even if they’re not your children, they are somebody else’s children. My heart goes out because I’m a mother.”
Shields, 26, was shot to death early Sunday leaving a party at 513 Lounge on Verity Parkway.
“She (Shields) wasn’t doing anything wrong … all because someone wanted to be a tough guy,” Muterspaw said.
The chief spoke via Facebook Live and then later directly to this newspaper.
Muterspaw said detectives do not know if the shooting is connected to a shots fired incident at the 513 Lounge that apparently resulted in a fatal crash.
Shields and Stevie Waldon were at the party at the lounge, but “left almost an hour before the shots fired at the 513,” Muterspaw said.
The 2010 Audi Waldon was driving was hit by gunfire multiple times near the intersection of Roosevelt Boulevard and Wicoff. They both suffered gunshot wounds, and he drove to Atrium Medical Center.
Middletown police located 13 rounds in the roadway at Roosevelt Boulevard and Wicoff, minutes after Waldon and Shields arrived at the hospital, according to a police report. The rounds were identified as .223 shells, Winchester brand, according to police. Also taken from the shooting site was a gray and black beanie with “Deadpool” written on the side of it, according to the report.
A resident in that area of Roosevelt and Wicoff called 911 at 2:29 a.m. and said he heard “about 10 shots” from the Roosevelt area near AK Steel.
“It was about 10 shots, didn’t hear no return fire,” said the caller, who told dispatchers he wanted to remain anonymous.
At about 2:19 a.m. shots were fired outside 513 Lounge in a parking lot.
The chief said an off-duty officer at the lounge heard shots from the back over-flow parking lot and tried to stop a vehicle that sped away.
The driver, identified as Deshawn Rippy, 22, of Hamilton, crashed into a stone wall at St. John’s Church on First Avenue. Rippy had been shot at least one time. He was taken by medical helicopter to Miami Valley Hospital in Dayton with critical injuries.
Police said the front-seat passenger, Mariana-Maria Richlen, of West Chester Twp., was killed in the crash. In addition, multiple back-seat passengers were taken to the hospital for treatment of injuries.
An autopsy was performed Tuesday at the Butler County Coroner’s Office, but the cause of death for Richlen is still pending. The Ohio Highway Patrol is investigating the crash.
A memorial was erected at the corner of Wicoff and Roosevelt, and a candlelight vigil was held there Monday night, said Shayna Jones, 26, who graduated with Shields from Middletown High School in 2008.
There was a hand-written note taped to a pole that read: “Teresa was a beautiful person whose young life didn’t have to end so shortly and abruptly. Gun violence is becoming the norm and taking away innocent people, leaving those who love them to feel unbearable hurt and emptiness for a lifetime. Teresa was an angel on Earth, now she’s an angel in Heaven.”
On Tuesday, Jones stopped by the memorial in the rain to place an unlit candle at the base of the pole.
“One of the first deaths of the year and I had to know her,” Jones said. “I can’t drive down the street without tearing up, getting emotional.”
The NAACP’s Bronston said the rash of shootings in the city isn’t typical. She has lived in Middletown most of her life and called the city a bedroom community where families know each other.
After several shootings in the city in December, Bronston and community leaders met privately with Muterspaw.
She said it was decided that the group would be more visible as “a united team to speak out against crime and against shootings and asking the young people to put their guns down.”
Then, just a few minutes into 2017, more violence rang out.
“It’s disheartening because my hope is in the future of our young people,” she said.
Muterspaw said the management of 513 Lounge is cooperative and reaches out to police for help when needed with patrons.
“Not all bar owners do,” Muterspaw said.
There has been a rash of crime in Middletown past couple of months, including shootings and two homicides, but arrests have been made.
“It has been a bad two months. It happens in this line of work. I have seen times much worse than this. It is something we have to fight through. We will get through it,” Muterspaw said.
The chief noted gun violence is nation wide, not just in Middletown.
“(It) is a lack of respect for life is, it is a joke and a game to people,” Muterspaw said.
He asked for help from citizens to bring the culprits to justice.
“I don’t care how small it is, call in,” Muterspaw said.
Anyone with information can call 513-425-7700.
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