One week after my family visit to Fountain Square, a teenager was shot and killed by a police officer several feet from where my nieces danced.
It was a busy Saturday night. Fountain Square was packed with activity associated with the Black Family Reunion. (I had not ventured down on this particular night.) According to reports, police received word that a group of teens was armed. Police found the group. They asked them to stop and answer questions. The teens resisted. One teen pulled a gun. A officer shot that teen in the chest. The teen died.
It was the first shooting in Fountain Square in more than a decade.
I went to eat down there the next Saturday. I asked my waitress if things had been different since the shooting. She said they had not. She said there was just so much going on last weekend, so many people, that the shooting was a fluke. Fluke was not her word, it is mine, but it characterizes the tone of her voice. She was not concerned. She walked away from our conversation quickly after I asked about the shooting. She was not scared, but did not want to discuss what it means for the community. She also did not want to see it as part of a bigger issue happening across Cincinnati – violence is increasing.
There is a strange silence around what happened at Fountain Square, no one is talking about it. People seem more focused on the missing white co-ed from a suburban neighborhood than on participating in a dialogue about violence downtown. It is too soon to tell exactly how the community will respond. The Bengals are about to start playing football. The Reds are headed into the last stretch of the baseball season. Convention visitors still appear to be milling around. The music still fills the space. The flow seems pretty normal headed into fall. (Not that I have experienced a fall in Cincinnati before.)
I am not sure how I am supposed to react. Will I continue to go to Fountain Square? Will I take my nieces down to the square the next time they visit? They love it. It would be a shame to stay away. Was this a random incident or part of a greater malaise that happens when people lose jobs and hope? The victim was 16. So young. Now he is dead. Why did he have the gun? Why did he draw it on a police officer? The police officer was protecting the crowd. The questions remain amidst a “just keep shopping” backdrop. That makes me sad. How can we save other young people? How can we make it so there is never another shooting at Fountain Square, or anywhere else for that matter. If crime and drug use goes down when people are employed, how can we find folks jobs? There seem to be deeper issues at work. There are, and have been, enough police officers around Fountain Square to make me feel safe. Now I am just thinking about the whole situation. I want my nieces to be able to let their hair down and dance.