By Phil Trexler
Beacon Journal staff writer
A changing culture within Akron neighborhoods led witnesses to come forward with the name of a suspect in last year’s shooting death of a popular former Buchtel High School student, police said Friday.
Detectives said “newly developed information” from witnesses led them to charge Jay Jazzmen Robinson, 25, of Akron, in the March 2012 shooting death of Willie E. Brewer III, 17, outside a convenience store.
The case had remained unsolved for about 20 months. However, Detective Rich Morrison said he and fellow detectives continued to work the case and glean information from witnesses.
The process was sometimes slow, he said, with witnesses reluctant or fearful to speak up. But Morrison said detectives have noticed more people willing to come forward with information.
“It seems like, especially in this case, we are getting more cooperation,” he said. “The community appears to be more willing to tell us what happened. The culture seems to be changing.
“It’s like people are beginning to see they are not alone if they step up.”
Brewer’s shooting death was one of 11 unsolved slayings in Akron last year. His killing was also one of the most-talked-about cases because of the stark circumstances surrounding his shooting death coupled with the initial lack of cooperative witnesses.
The former Buchtel football player was shot March 30, 2012, outside the Mr. Pantry store at 950 Copley Road near Storer Avenue. A spray of gunfire erupted in the busy neighborhood about 3:30 p.m. Brewer died while being treated at a hospital. At least nine shots were fired.
Brewer’s death, however, seemed to prompt an uptick in community involvement. Local leaders called on residents, pleading with them not to be afraid to come forward with information.
Students at Buchtel High, where Brewer’s mother, Lola, works, held a vigil in his honor. A number of community groups formed and began working to address gun violence around the Copley Road neighborhood. Those volunteers included a group of students from Buchtel High.
Darrita Davis is one of the community activists who demonstrated on Copley Road in the wake of Brewer’s death.
Davis, who heads the Stop The Violence Akron Movement, said she has seen some change, but not enough.
She noted the two dozen other recent unsolved killings, most involving young black men, as a sign that more needs to be done to address the cause of violence that still permeates.
“I’m glad the community came together and the no-snitch culture is being addressed,” she said. “But there are so many other suspects out there and so many other unsolved homicides.”
Robinson is charged with aggravated murder, murder, carrying a concealed weapon and weapons while under disability.
Robinson is also accused of shooting Alex Watts, 56, a passer-by who was wounded by bullets fired at Brewer.
He is incarcerated in the Mansfield Correctional Institution on unrelated charges.
Robinson entered the state prison system last month to serve a 10-month sentence on charges of drug trafficking and drug possession.