Witness to Westwood shooting recalls ‘small’ boy victim, pattern of violence

‘The kids don’t understand what guns will do.’
Updated: Jun. 13, 2021 at 9:16 PM EDT
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CINCINNATI (WXIX) - Saturday’s Westwood shooting that critically injured two children is part of a pattern of violence in the store parking lot where it occurred, says a woman who works across the street.

Linda Burress has worked at Scarlata’s Pizza for 30 years. The restaurant on McHenry Avenue is located almost directly across from Reem Market, in whose parking lot the shooting took place.

Police responded to the parking lot around 6:15 p.m Saturday. They found four total victims, including two adults who suffered non-life-threatening injuries.

The children, ages 6 and 8, were listed in critical condition as of the last update from Cincinnati police. The 8-year-old is in “very bad shape,” Lt. Col. Mike John said.

“I believe the children were just hanging out in that lot, and it’s just a tragic, tragic situation, it’s awful,” John explained.

Police say multiple people were shooting, with at least two of them running from the scene.

Burress says she heard around five gun shots while inside the restaurant, then she went out the back door.

“I saw three guys run from the store toward Fyffe [Avenue,] and [one of them] had the gun in his hand,” she recalled. “It was a gray one. I don’t know what size. I couldn’t tell ya. He was wearing a yellow shirt. He had blood all over hum. He went down, you know, on Fyffe. Then, when he came back up around five minutes later, he didn’t have the gun.”

Burress says at one point she saw one of the child victims.

“All I could think about is that little boy, ‘cause you could tell he was small,” she said. “It was a sad, sad situation.”

The intersection of McHenry and Cavanaugh avenues is no stranger to violence. In March 2020, police found a man there shot to death. Another shooting happened in September of 2018.

According to CincyInsights, there was also a fatal shooting in March 2019 as well as six other non-fatal shootings near the intersection over the last five years.

“I’ve seen the neighborhood go from good to bad, good to bad,” Burress said. “It’s just the neighborhood and the area you’re at.”

She continued: “It’s not the store’s fault. It’s the people that hang at the store. We need to get them off of the streets. Find them something to do. Play basketball, sports, whatever, and get them off the streets.”

Burress adds there’s an element of naivete at work as well.

“The kids don’t understand what guns will do,” she said.

Brian Garry of Neighborhoods United, an organization seeking to reduce gun violence in Cincinnati, says there are solutions out there.

“It’s not just about the police,” he said. “It’s their job to respond, but the police can’t prevent all crime. It’s our job as a community to find solutions, which includes providing opportunities and investing in peoples’ lives.”

Garry refers to city programs like the Citizens’ Community on Youth, which looked after teens and shepherded them to college and into careers. The program was defunded in 2007.

“That’s what will actually prevent the crime,” Garry said, adding youth homicides jumped by 38 percent in 2020 over the previous year. “People are dying younger, and it has a lot to do with lack of investment in our youth.”

The investigation into Saturday’s shooting is ongoing.

Call CrimeStoppers at 513-352-3040 if you have any information.

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