Jamila McNichols, sister of slain mass shooting victim Thomas “TJ” McNichols, mourns beside a memorial near the scene of the mass shooting Monday, Aug. 5, 2019, in Dayton, Ohio. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)

Jamila McNichols, sister of slain mass shooting victim Thomas “TJ” McNichols, mourns beside a memorial near the scene of the mass shooting Monday, Aug. 5, 2019, in Dayton, Ohio. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)

Hate ruled out, but motive still a mystery in Dayton attack that killed 9

The shooter’s sister was among the dead

As authorities in Ohio try to pin down a motive for the weekend’s second U.S. mass shooting and dig into the slain shooter’s life, what they find might also help answer another big question looming over the tragedy: What, if anything, could have stopped it?

Police say the gunman was wearing a mask and body armour when he shot and killed his younger sister and eight others after the pair had arrived together with a friend earlier Saturday evening at a popular entertainment district packed with people.

It all happened within 30 seconds, before police officers stationed nearby shot and killed 24-year-old Connor Betts, who was armed with a .223-calibre rifle with magazines capable of holding at least 100 rounds of ammunition, said Dayton Police Chief Richard Biehl.

What’s not known is whether Betts targeted any of the victims, including his 22-year-old sister, Megan, the youngest of the dead.

While the gunman was white and six of the nine killed were black, police said the quickness of the rampage made any discrimination in the shooting seem unlikely.

Any attempt to suggest a motive so early in the investigation would be irresponsible, the police chief said.

READ MORE: 9 killed in Ohio in second U.S. mass shooting within 24 hours

Surveillance video shared by police showed officers shot Betts at the doorstep of further destruction, stopping him from entering a bar where some people took cover when the chaos broke out around 1 a.m. Sunday in Dayton’s historic Oregon District.

Had he gotten inside the bar, the result would have been “catastrophic,” Biehl said.

Anthony Reynolds, 31, said the first gunshot “was kind of an echo because of the buildings. Then it was rapid, rapid. People were just falling.”

Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine visited the scene Sunday and said policymakers must now consider: “Is there anything we can do in the future to make sure something like this does not happen?”

But hours later hundreds of people, mostly young adults, stood shoulder-to shoulder Sunday night at a vigil and vented their frustration at the Republican governor, interrupting him with chants of “Make a change!” and “Do something!” as he talked about the victims.

“People are angry, and they’re upset. They should be,” said Jennifer Alfrey, 24, of Middletown, who added that she didn’t agree with interrupting the vigil but understood why so many did.

Mayor Nan Whaley, a Democrat, said there would be time later for dealing with policy issues and implored the crowd to honour the victims.

Whaley noted at a news conference that the city was still recovering from tornadoes that swept through western Ohio in late May, destroying or damaging hundreds of homes and businesses.

“What really goes through my mind is one seems completely preventable,” she said. “When is enough enough?”

Ohio’s two U.S. senators visited the scene of the mass shooting. Democratic Sen. Sherrod Brown said responding with thoughts and prayers is not enough and stronger gun safety laws are needed. Republican Sen. Rob Portman said the discussion must include not just policy changes, but issues such as mental health support.

Police have said there was nothing in Betts’ background that would have prevented him from buying the rifle used in the shooting. They said they also found a shotgun in his car.

Authorities identified the other dead as Monica Brickhouse, 39; Nicholas Cumer, 25; Derrick Fudge, 57; Thomas McNichols, 25; Lois Oglesby, 27; Saeed Saleh, 38; Logan Turner, 30; and Beatrice N. Warren-Curtis, 36.

At least 15 of the 27 more people known to have been treated for injuries had been released, according to city officials. Some suffered multiple gunshot wounds and others were injured as they fled, hospital officials said.

Conflicting accounts of the shooter have emerged.

To some, Betts was known as a friendly guy who sometimes stopped for a beer or two at a bar southeast of Dayton in Bellbrook, a short drive from his home.

Bartender Andy Baker said Betts was at Romer’s Bar & Grill last Monday and seemed fine. Fellow customer Mike Kern said he sometimes played trivia at Romer’s with Betts, who was good for answers about current events and pop culture and was “the kind of kid you’d want as a son.”

“I never heard him talk about violence, say a racist word, or anything like that,” Kern said.

But high school classmates said he was suspended for compiling a “hit list” of those he wanted to kill and a “rape list” of girls he wanted to sexually assault.

Both former classmates told The Associated Press that Betts was suspended during their junior year at suburban Bellbrook High School after a hit list was found scrawled in a school bathroom. That followed an earlier suspension after Betts came to school with a list of female students he wanted to sexually assault, according to the two classmates, a man and a woman who are both now 24 and spoke on condition of anonymity out of concern they might face harassment.

A former cheerleader, the woman said she didn’t really know Betts and was surprised when a police officer called her cellphone during her freshman year to tell her that her name was included on a list of potential targets.

“The officer said he wouldn’t be at school for a while,” she said. “But after some time passed he was back, walking the halls. They didn’t give us any warning that he was returning to school.”

READ MORE: Life in public-shooting-era America: ‘You can’t just not go’

Bellbrook-Sugarcreek Schools officials declined to comment on those accounts, only confirming that Betts attended schools in the district. Bellbrook Police Chief Doug Doherty said he and his officers had no previous contact with Betts and weren’t aware of any history of violence, including during high school.

Betts had no apparent criminal record as an adult. If he had been charged as a juvenile, that would typically be sealed under state law.

The Ohio shooting came hours after a young man opened fire in a crowded El Paso, Texas, shopping area, leaving 20 dead and more than two dozen injured. Just days before, on July 28, a 19-year-old shot and killed three people, including two children, at the Gilroy Garlic Festival in Northern California.

Sunday’s shooting in Dayton is the 22nd mass killing of 2019 in the U.S., according to the AP/USA Today/Northeastern University mass murder database that tracks homicides where four or more people were killed — not including the offender. The 20 mass killings in the U.S. in 2019 that preceded this weekend claimed 96 lives.

President Donald Trump claimed Monday he wanted Washington to “come together” on legislation providing “strong background checks” for gun users, but he provided no details and previous gun control measures have languished in the Republican-controlled Senate.

READ MORE: Sister: El Paso shooting victim, 25, ‘gave her life’ for son

Trump, who will make remarks to the nation later Monday, tweeted about the weekend shootings: “We can never forget them, and those many who came before them.”

The Democrat-led House has passed a gun control bill that includes fixes to the nation’s firearm background check system, but it has languished in the Senate.

Trump suggested that a background check bill could be paired with his long-sought effort to toughen the nation’s immigration system. He didn’t say how.

___

Associated Press writers Julie Carr Smyth in Dayton, Michael Balsamo in Orlando, Florida, and Kantele Franko in Columbus contributed to this report.

John Seewer, Dan Sewell And John Minchillo, The Associated Press


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Deb Jack was named Surrey’s Good Citizen of the Year in 2012. (File photo)
Environmentalists’ delegation takes aim at Bear Creek Park road project

‘Bear Creek Park is ours – a natural heritage,’ Deb Jack says

Surrey-raised rapper Merkules outside his old Green Timbers-area house. Its looming demolition triggers some memories for the musician. (Photo: Tom Zillich)
VIDEO: Rapper Merkules visits old Surrey home one final time before its demolition

‘It’s weird seeing the place gutted like this,’ he says of the Green Timbers-area rancher

In a letter to Fraser Health president and CEO Dr. Victoria Lee dated May 11, Delta Mayor George Harvie confirmed the city’s interest in acquiring a head lease for the Harold and Veronica Savage Centre for Supportive Care, with the intention of subletting it to the recently-formed Heron Hospice Society of Delta. (The Canadian Press photo)
Mayor confirms Delta’s interest in leasing Centre for Supportive Care

Harvie says city intends to sublet the facility to recently-formed Heron Hospice Society of Delta

The City of Surrey has moved a step closer to its single-use plastics and styrofoam ban, approving a communication and education plan for businesses. (File photo)
Surrey moves forward with single-use plastics ban, anticipated to take effect in November

‘Communication and education plan’ to prepare businesses approved

Surrey-based entrepreneur Ekam Panesar, 19, says he’s ready to take on the big delivery apps with his Dishpal App. (Zoom meeting photo)
Surrey entrepreneur, 19, delivers Dishpal as alternative to ‘big’ food/grocery apps

Ekam Panesar got the idea to develop app as a 16-year-old enjoying a summertime meal with his father

Surrey-raised rapper Merkules outside his old Green Timbers-area house. Its looming demolition triggers some memories for the musician. (Photo: Tom Zillich)
VIDEO: Rapper Merkules visits old Surrey home one final time before its demolition

‘It’s weird seeing the place gutted like this,’ he says of the Green Timbers-area rancher

Keith MacIntyre - BC Libertarian
Penticton’s Keith MacIntyre new leader of the B.C. Libertarian Party

The Penticton businessman was voted in by members of the party on May 8

RCMP are searching for Philip Toner, who is a 'person of interest' in the investigation of a suspicious death in Kootenay National Park last week. Photo courtesy BC RCMP.
Man sought in suspicious Kootenay death found in Lake Country

Philip Toner is a person of interest in the death of Brenda Ware

Vernon North Okanagan RCMP reported to 287 mental health calls between Jan. 1, 2021, and May 1. (Black Press files)
‘It’s not the police’s responsibility to deal with mental health calls’: Vernon RCMP

RCMP remind public to take care of mental health and well-being, while better solutions are sought

Thompson Rivers University campus is in Kamloops, B.C. (KTW file photo)
Thompson Rivers the 1st B.C. university to supply free menstrual products

The university will offer the products this September

Fraser Health is using ‘targeted’ vaccination clinics in high-risk areas of the Lower Mainland. (Fraser Health photo)
B.C.’s COVID-19 decrease continues, 515 new cases Tuesday

426 seriously ill people in hospital, up from 415 Monday

The site of Sunfest, Laketown Ranch, will be open for camping this summer. (Citizen file)
Sunfest country music bash won’t be shining on B.C. in 2021

Annual Vancouver Island Festival cancelled due to COVID-19, along with Laketown Shakedown

Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation elected chief councillor Moses Martin, who was also Chantel Moore’s grandfather, speaks to media in Port Alberni on Aug. 16, 2020, during a visit from NDP leader Jagmeet Singh following the police shooting of Chantel Moore. (Elena Rardon photo)
Mother of 2 shot by police in critical condition, says B.C. First Nation chief

Community ‘devastated’ by third member of 1,150-person Vancouver Island nation shot in less than a year

B.C. Agriculture Minister Lana Popham promotes the government’s BuyBC food program in 2019. (B.C. government)
Money running out for fresh fruit, vegetables, milk in B.C. schools

‘Looking at ways to support this type of program,’ minister says

Most Read