Crime and communities


Toledo officers feel shootings’ effects for years
Toledo Blade, 2/21/2010

This is a battleground. Not a parking lot.

Driving the 4500 block of Monroe Street near Secor Road, retired Toledo Police Chief Jack Smith can’t help but replay the events of Feb. 13, 1998. The chase ended here after Joseph Chappell took a deadly tour of the city – spitting bullets at the police cruisers pursuing him after he murdered the woman who refused his romantic advances, he stabbed her two children, and he shot and killed a stranger who wouldn’t surrender the keys to her truck.

Mr. Smith was one of three officers who confronted Chappell with gunfire. Police fired 19 rounds and struck the suspect nine times, killing him.

“Any time you drive by that place, you relive that incident. No regrets. No second thoughts. But it never leaves you,” Mr. Smith said.

Although officers return to duty within days of shooting incidents, many struggle with the emotional effects long after, police and mental health experts say.


Teens struck by train
Toledo Blade, 12/17/2009

When students arrived at Springfield High School yesterday, they walked into an unfolding tragedy.

The news that freshman Cody Brown was killed yesterday, and sophomore Brianna Mullinger was critically injured, devastated the suburban school’s students, staff, and community.

“I could see people in the hallways, crying, and I asked someone, and they told me, and I came to tears. It was horrible,” sophomore Taylor DeHollander said after learning about what had happened to her two friends.

Cody and Brianna — best friends who were popular and well-liked at Springfield — were hit by an Amtrak train while walking to school in the dark just before 7 a.m.

The students were crossing the Norfolk Southern railroad tracks in Holland near McCord Road just north of the school.


Tragedy on the tracks: Blast of train horns haunts Holland teen
Toledo Blade, 1/10/2010

Bri Mullinger gets goosebumps when she hears the blast of a train horn.

“There’s a train,” she says automatically, her blue eyes wide and alert. She never noticed the trains passing near her house before. Never heard them.

That changed Dec. 16 when the teenager was struck by an Amtrak train she tried to beat while walking to Springfield High School with her best friend, Cody Brown.

Cody didn’t make it. It was a miracle that she did, doctors told the Mullinger family.

After three weeks at Toledo Hospital and extensive surgeries, including one to amputate her badly damaged left leg, Bri is home.


Best friend’s absence mars teen’s 1st day back in class
Toledo Blade, 3/6/2010

It was tough to pass by her best friend’s empty locker, tougher still to sit through the two classes she knew they were supposed to share.

Bri Mullinger, 16, returned to Springfield High School Friday nearly three months after she and her best friend, Cody Brown, were struck by a fast-moving Amtrak train they tried to beat on the way to school Dec. 16.

Bri lost her leg.

Cody lost his life.

The first day back to school without her friend was hard, Bri said. Gone was her old routine of walking there with Cody. After her mom dropped her off at the front door, Bri spent the day in a wheelchair, and was accompanied by an adult aide who was there to help if she needed it throughout the day.

“It was all right,” she said after school. “It wasn’t the best day of my life.”

Getting through the day without Cody at her side was the hardest part, she said.

“I came out of the school and just broke down,” she said.


Victim of train finally bids hospital bittersweet farewell
Toledo Blade, 9/5/2010

Spending the better part of eight months at Toledo Children’s Hospital hasn’t been all bad for Bri Mullinger, the teenager who survived being struck by an Amtrak train as she and her best friend tried to dart across the tracks near Springfield High School.

Although the hospital has been the site of painful medical procedures she’s endured since the day in December she lost her best friend and her left leg, her fifth-floor room slowly became comfortable, almost like home. It became a place to be silly with old friends and make some new ones, spend time with family, do homework, eat, and sleep.

Although the hospital has been the site of painful medical procedures she’s endured since the day in December she lost her best friend and her left leg, her fifth-floor room slowly became comfortable, almost like home. It became a place to be silly with old friends and make some new ones, spend time with family, do homework, eat, and sleep.

“It hasn’t been horrible ’cause I have friends here. And I just do the same thing here that I do at home. It’s not bad. I don’t enjoy it, but … “ she said with a shrug.

Well, she might have enjoyed some of it. Just a little. There was the friendly battle with a younger neighbor on the floor who couldn’t walk past Bri’s room without pelting her with a marshmallow fired from his arsenal of toy weapons. Although a family friend bought Bri her own shooter and shield, she was no match for the kid’s bow and arrow, rifle, and, of course, bazooka — which shot giant marshmallows.


Fatal Stabbing in West Toledo: A tragedy unfolds as 2 lives intersect
Toledo Blade, 7/25/2010

A two-year age difference and few miles weren’t all that separated Casey Bucher and Lawrence Fitzgerald James until their fatal encounter outside Maxwells Brew on July 18.

Police said James confessed that he demanded 35 cents and a cigarette before stabbing Mr. Bucher once in the heart, killing him.

The two had never met.

Both were living near the University of Toledo. Mr. Bucher, 22, was living alone for the first time in Kenwood Gardens apartments, less than a mile from campus and his summer job at Maxwells on West Bancroft Street. James, 24, was living with his mother, her boyfriend, and their children in apartments near the coffeehouse about a month after he was freed from prison.

Now, the Bucher family is reeling a week after their son’s death, and the James family is struggling to accept their son’s confession.


UT stabbing victim recalled
Toledo Blade, 7/23/2010

Casey Bucher, 22, was working his way through college as an exercise science major and hoped to pursue a master’s degree in physical therapy, family said.

The University of Toledo sophomore was killed Sunday by a man who, according to police, confessed that he asked for 35 cents and a cigarette before stabbing Mr. Bucher once through the heart. Mr. Bucher’s funeral was scheduled for 1 p.m. Friday at the Witzler-Shank Funeral Home in Perrysburg.

“He wasn’t going to fight,” his mother, Lisa Bucher, said. “He wasn’t a fighter.”

“I just think his guard was down because of the way he looks at the world,” his uncle, Ryan Gephart, said.

Mr. Bucher graduated from Anthony Wayne High School in 2006, where he played basketball and football through his sophomore year. He long had a special interest in fitness and planned to try out for the University of Toledo basketball team later this year.

He worked with children with special needs at the Perceptual Motor Development Clinic at the University of Toledo for college credit during a semester last year, and continued volunteering there afterward to help one of the boys with autism, his family said.


Toledo’s gangs grow more violent, brazen: Innocent bystanders get caught in cross fire
Toledo Blade, 10/10/2010

Gang violence has escalated beyond the fistfights, petty crime, and acts of revenge against rivals that the criminal groups were known for in the last decade.

The violence is intensifying and innocent people are being hurt.
Shaliah Lacy was home with her children when gang members used bricks and stones to bust every window of her place at Brand Whitlock Homes one evening recently.

Last month, a popular barber was shot and killed by a bullet intended for someone else in central Toledo gang territory.

Soon after, two teenage bystanders were shot and seriously hurt by rivals of the nearby gang.

“They don’t have any sense of life and death or what the hell they’re doing,” said Toledo Police Capt. Ray Carroll, supervisor of investigative services. “I don’t want to give these guys too much credit or give them any sense of bravado. They’re punks. They’re criminals. They are tearing up neighborhoods. People are afraid to leave their house.


2 officers face questions over visit to slaying site
Toledo Blade, 8/ 7/ 2010

Two Toledo police officers dispatched last year on reports of screaming at the warehouse where Cindy Sumner was later found dead now are under scrutiny for their visit to the site last August.

Ms. Sumner, 21, was found dead in the basement of the vacant warehouse at 1510 Elm St. on Sept. 17 — six weeks after she was reported missing from her North Toledo home. Friday was the anniversary of her initial disappearance.


Uncle says suspect was ‘good kid’ in wrong crowd
Toledo Blade, 8/15/2008

Anthony Belton, the man charged with killing a BP convenience-store clerk during a robbery Tuesday, was “a good kid” who yearned for love and a better relationship with his father, a family spokesman said yesterday.

“He was a good kid; he just got caught with the wrong people,” his uncle, George Everett, said, adding that he’d never met a second suspect arrested yesterday. “The media’s got him like a wild animal, and he’s not like that.”

Police yesterday arrested Mr. Belton, 22, of 934 Cuthbert Rd., and Dymon Bolton, 18, of 623 Ranch Drive. A third suspect remained at large last night.

Mr. Bolton, the man suspected of driving the getaway car and described by police as a known gang member, has his mother’s name tattooed on his right arm and no juvenile or adult criminal record. He was a senior at Rogers High School last year, but did not graduate, said Patty Mazur, a Toledo Public Schools spokesman.

When Mr. Bolton was 10 years old, his mother made him attend a four-week summer-school session at Keyser Elementary School, spoiling his summertime preference for bike-riding with his friend, Chad.

“I was mad at first,” he told The Blade in 2000, adding he later decided “it’s good for me.”