Northland News

Shootings shock, sadden leaders in the community

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It's supposed to be a place where people get healthy, not face death.

Nevertheless, gunfire erupted last week in the parking lot of the North YMCA on Sandalwood Place, shattering the neighborhood's faith that this, at least, was a place safe from urban violence.

Deon L. Johnson, 36, was pronounced dead just after 4 p.m. Wednesday, April 16, soon after Columbus police arrived and found him in his car. Police so far have released no address for him.

Sgt. Christ Holzhauser, supervisor of the police department's second-shift homicide squad, said an argument preceded the shooting. A gray or beige 2000 Chevrolet Impala with two or three men inside was seen racing from the parking lot after shots were fired, he said.

Community leaders were in a quandary last week regarding how to portray this as an isolated incident and keep alive their message that the Northland area is still recovering nicely from the dark days that followed the 2002 closing of what was the city's first mall.

It didn't help matters that also on the night of April 16, a woman was shot at an apartment complex near the intersection of East Dublin-Granville and Sinclair roads and that a teenager was shot inside a McGuffey Road home.

The woman, identified as Katrina K. Gregory, 31, was found by police outside 879 E. Dublin-Granville Road at the East Worthington Village Apartments. She died Thursday morning.

Police said the wounded teen, an 18-year-old girl, saw people trying to break into a car parked on McGuffey Road, and went inside to alert people in the house. Shots then fired into the house hit her in the ankle.

Although no one inside the YMCA was injured, the incident has affected many in the area.

"We've always thought of the YMCA as a very safe place, kind of a haven," said Dave Paul, past president of the Northland Community Council and now chairman of the NCC development committee.

Brian Kridler, chief operating officer of the YMCA of Central Ohio, said the building was immediately locked down and eventually closed early. It resumed normal operating hours on Thursday, April 17.

"We think this is an isolated, unfortunate and terrible incident," Kridler said.

"I'm very disappointed that our society has reached the point where gunplay has to be the order of the day," said a saddened Dave Cooper, president of the Northland Area Business Association.

"This is shocking to hear," said the Rev. Kwesi Gyimah, pastor of the Columbus All Nations Seventh-Day Adventist Church and a member of the North Side Health Advisory Committee.

"This could have happened anywhere," he added. "It's just the society we live in. It's unfortunate. My thoughts and prayers are with the families affected, both with the perpetrator and the person who was shot."

"I was shocked just on a personal level because that's the Y that my wife and I go to," the Rev. Don Wallick of the Church of the Good Shepherd said.

"It's just shocking that it would happen there. My hope is -- and I think this is certainly true -- that it's sort of an isolated and targeted thing. It was just those folks in that place at that time.

"I guess my other hope is that it will help pull the community together to really put our foot down about things like this happening.

"It's not an area where you think of being in danger," Wallick added. "It does give the community a black eye. I would hope people can come together and say, 'This is not who we are.' "

Paul called the situation frustrating "if for no other reason than the image of the community.

"People are just going to be saying it's just indicative of the area. I don't believe that and many of the people who live here don't believe that," he said.

"We have a tendency to consider ourselves fortunate when we hear about these incidents in other parts of town, but they do happen everywhere."

"It's just one of those things," Cooper said. "It's not that it's happening in Northland; it's happening all over. When I turn the news on at night, it's happening on the East Side, on the South Side, in Hilliard.

"What we need to do is get people communicating in some way other than with guns."

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