Advocates in one of Akron’s most troubled neighborhoods are calling for change after Friday afternoon’s shooting death of a 17-year-old Buchtel High School football player.
The youth was struck in the chest in a hail of gunfire that erupted outside a convenience store in the midst of a bustling, bright afternoon on Copley Road. He died before reaching a hospital.
A spokesman for the Summit County Medical Examiner said the name of the victim would not be released Friday evening. But Akron City Council President Marco Sommerville said he talked with the youth’s mother and identified him as Willie Brewer.
A candlelight vigil for Brewer, attended by 100 to 150 people, was held at Buchtel High School Friday night. It is unclear whether he still was enrolled at the school.
A 55-year-old man was struck by a stray shot. The man, who has not been identified, was standing about 150 feet away near a drugstore at the corner of Storer Avenue when he was hit. He underwent surgery at Akron General Medical Center.
The shooter has not been identified and no motive is known. Police are reviewing surveillance video that may have captured how the shooting unfolded and may provide a description of the shooter.
A large gathering of people visited the crime scene in Akron’s near west side, a neighborhood filled with children and families and a burgeoning reputation for violent crimes.
Residents and a contingent of police officers and detectives were joined shortly after gunfire broke out about 3:30 p.m. by City Council members Russel Neal, Sommerville and Mike Williams.
Neighborhood activist Rob Deck, who knew Brewer and his family, said the violence — shootings, robberies, drug sales — on Akron’s streets must end. Deck is a local youth football coach, a parent and part of the “Stop the Violence Movement” in Akron.
He said Akron residents must come together, just as they did earlier this week to protest the shooting death hundreds of miles away of another 17-year-old — Trayvon Martin of Florida.
“If we can come together for something that happened in Florida, we need to come together to solve this black-on-black crime that’s going on in our own city,” Deck said. “This has got to stop. The time is now.”
Brewer was described as a fine student and athlete, who played wide receiver and cornerback. His mother works as a secretary at the high school.
“I watched him grow up through youth football. He’s a great young man,” Deck said. “It’s a shame, it’s a tragedy, that this had to happen. He’s got good parents. This kid really didn’t bother anybody. He came from a good family background. It’s just sad. This community has suffered a lot.”
Neal, who knows Brewer’s family and represents the ward on council, said recent community forums to address youth and violent crime have apparently failed. He appeared stunned as he walked along the yellow crime scene tape and at least nine placards marking the gun shell casings dotting the asphalt parking lot at Mr. Pantry’s convenience store, where the shooting erupted.
“There’s a lot of groups in the area that have been working together to quell the violence in the community, to bring an end to it, to educate people,” Neal said.
“We just had a gathering of people in the community [Thursday] working together about how to improve the community, and then this happens ... I’m really lost. The vigils, the marches, the talking, right now, it’s not working. We’ve got to do something else.”
Phil Trexler can be reached at 330-996-3717 or firstname.lastname@example.org.