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Neighbors, Businesses Respond To Rising Gun Violence In Columbus

Balloons were tied to a utility pole on Seymour Avenue in memory of Tahjze Patterson, who was shot on August 4.
Adora Namigadde
Balloons were tied to a utility pole on Seymour Avenue in memory of Tahjze Patterson, who was shot on August 4.

Diamaunte Hale recently moved to Seymour Avenue on Columbus' East Side. He says carrying a gun here is normal.

“In this type of neighborhood, guns are needed,” Hale says. “But it’s regulation. Police are out here 24/7, so guns is on hips and holsters.”

Seymour Avenue is where 23-year-old Tahjze Patterson was shot and killed on Tuesday night. When officers responded, he was found lying in the street. Investigators say they have very little to go on, with no suspects and no motive.

Patterson was in the crosshairs of one of six shooting incidents that night. Three occurred in Linden and three occurred on Columbus’ East Side.

A 17-year-old shot on McGuffey Road. A 16-year-old shot on Jermain Drive while standing in the kitchen. Five vehicles and a business struck by bullets on Westerville Road. A residence on Karl Road. A duplex on Durbridge Road.

Hale worries about the uptick in gun violence in Columbus – and especially who it’s affecting.

“The innocent killings that’s been going on in the neighborhoods, it’s not adults now. It’s kids," Hale says. "Kids is being killed because adults are not doing nothing about it.”

Diamaunte Hale sitting on his porch.
Credit Adora Namigadde / WOSU
Diamaunte Hale thinks adults in the community are not doing enough to help kids avoid violence.

Gun violence has been rising in Columbus since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. Community members want to see the shootings, but disagree on how to do it.

A Dangerous Summer

Seventeen people were killed this July, nearly double the number killed the same month last year. The first few days of August indicate the trend will continue.

More than 40% of homicides in Columbus this year happened in June or July.

“We need to be teaching the kids that, it’s cool to have a weapon, but know how to use it and know it’s for protection," Hale says. "It’s not out here for fun and games and to look cool."

Former Columbus Police Chief Kim Jacobs finds the current stats appalling, and says the city needs to do more.

“It is terrible in my opinion that we haven’t done an all-out summer violence initiative to go out there and be proactive,” Jacobs says.

In July, Columbus Police Sergeant James Fuqua said the uptick in gun violence was partially due to people being stuck at home because of the pandemic.

"Every single month since the pandemic, our numbers have increased with violent crimes specific to gun violence,” Fuqua says.

Another Seymour Avenue resident, Earl, who declined to give his last name, agrees.

“With the coronavirus and everything else that’s going on, people starting to get where they don’t care anyways, so they doing whatever,” Earl says.

He also suspects gun violence is going up because kids are raising their parents.

“They ain’t gonna work no McDonald’s job when they’re making $2,000 or $3,000 on a corner,” Earl says. “They have war turf. So when they have war turf, and the mama and daddy ain’t spending time, then that’s what you’re gonna get.”

"War turf" refers to gang violence. A business owner in the area, who declined to be recorded, said her business installed a lot of bright lighting to help cope with turf wars that play out in a parking lot and drive-thru.

Family members of Tahjze Patterson placed candles near the site of his shooting on Seymour Avenue on August 4.
Credit Adora Namigadde / WOSU
Family members of Tahjze Patterson placed candles near the site of his shooting on Seymour Avenue on August 4.

Guns In The Community

Mustafa Shabazz owns Ujamaa Bookstore on Livingston Avenue, near the scene of Patteron’s shooting. He thinks the main issue is gun accessibility.

“People can’t kill people if they don’t have guns,” Shabazz says. “We have to start asking the question, 'Why are we having so many guns in our community and not opportunity?’”

Shabazz wants to hear more news stories about illegal gun vendors facing legal consequences.

“There’s always going to be beef,” Shabazz says. “But if you don’t have a gun in your hands, we won’t have to deal with funeral homes.”

Hale said the community needs to come together to get through this rash of shootings.

“At the end of the day, we’re all in this one community, and we have to survive,” Hale says.

Adora Namigadde was a reporter for 89.7 NPR News. She joined WOSU News in February 2017. A Michigan native, she graduated from Wayne State University with a B.A. in Broadcast Journalism and a minor in French.