AKRON, Ohio (WJW)– Across the city of Akron, there are small makeshift memorials on street corners, sad reminders of lives that have been taken in violent crimes.
Akron police said 2020 is already the city’s worst year for violent homicides in more than a decade and murders are up 50 percent from this time last year.
Ronald Willis, Jr. is the 41st murder victim of the year. He was shot to death Wednesday afternoon outside a duplex on Seward Avenue in West Akron. Investigators said it appears the teen was involved in a dispute with another young man, who then shot the 15-year-old several times.
It is a common thread in many of the 42 homicides committed so far in 2020.
“Young people, in most cases, are making poor decisions to arm themselves with guns and solve conflicts with them. It’s always worse when it’s a kid, it’s unfortunate when anyone dies as a result of gun violence,” said Akron Police Lt. Mike Miller.
Tragically, a number of innocent children are among the murder victims this year. In one of the most troubling cases, 22-month-old Azeria Tucker and her father, 43-year-old Horace Lee, were killed in July, when a man intentionally ran them over with his SUV. Lee was taking his daughter for a walk in her stroller.
In August, 8-year-old Mikayla Pickett was killed a stray bullet when a gunman opened fire outside a Sherbondy Hill home during a birthday party.
There’s the heartbreaking case of 18-year-old Na’Kia Crawford, who was shot to death in June at a stoplight, while taking her grandmother on a shopping trip. Police said the gunman had apparently mistaken Nakia for a rival. The recent high school graduate was looking forward to starting college in the fall on a scholarship.
“These families of the victims are forever changed. The trauma that it leaves them with, the ripple effect that it leaves in the community is something we wish we could prevent,” Miller said.
Police are hoping that the stories of Willis and the dozens other victims will serve as a catalyst for families to start addressing the issue of young men arming themselves and making back decisions.
“Whether it be how long they stay out, curfew, anything like that, checking up on them or just helping to deliver a message that would help minimize them making poor choices,” Miller said.
In response to the spike in violent crime, Akron police said they are working with federal law enforcement agencies and targeting areas where crime is most rampant.
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