AKRON, Ohio — A child was struck by gunfire and seriously injured Thursday afternoon after shots erupted in a West Akron neighborhood.
At about 1:17 p.m. Thursday, shots were fired near a car wash in the 1200 block of Copley Road, police told News 5.
The shots were fired from one vehicle at another, and police say it appears the SUV that the girl was inside of was in the area of where the shots were fired. Police do not know if the vehicles were moving or stationary at the time of the shooting.
In the 900 block of Greenwood Avenue, police found the injured girl in an SUV, according to officials.
Also inside the SUV were an adult and at least three other children.
The girl was taken to Akron Children's Hospital in serious condition and required surgery, authorities said.
Detectives are following leads and working to identify and charge the person or persons responsible for the shooting.
Lt. Michael Miller with the Akron Police Department is asking for the public's help identifying the person or persons responsible for the shooting.
"There are no easy answers for something like this. I know that the community, this family, will be turned upside down and we need, are asking, urging for the community's help to help solve this," Miller said.
Prior to this shooting, 34 people had been murdered so far in 2020 in Akron, five of them children.
On Greenwood Avenue, a neighbor who didn’t want to be identified said he heard six or seven gunshots, coming from what he believed to be the street behind his house.
“I came out my front door. I looked, I didn’t see anybody,” the man said. “So I kept hearing gunshots.”
He said he then saw a black Jeep “come flying with a flat tire. The left front tire was out.” A woman got out of the car screaming, “Help, help, help,” the man said.
The man said the woman got her child out of the car and he ran down to help and called 911.
“Just hurtful. I was angry. Why would they shoot a [child]? Why would they do that?” the man said.
Asked what he would say to the person or people responsible, the man said, “Stop the killing. Grow up. Don’t. You don’t need guns. We need to stop this.”
Since the suspect or suspects had not been caught on Thursday evening, he said he didn’t want to show his face on camera, “because I live in this neighborhood. I don’t want the bad guys coming after me.”
Police believe the shooting happened in the parking lot of the car wash on Copley Road. Asmar Epps, an employee, said he was working on a car when he heard eight to 10 gunshots.
Epps said he saw the vehicles chase one another and one person get out of a car and keep shooting.
"It needs to stop. It needs to stop,” Epps said. “They don’t care about their lives, they don’t care about nobody else’s lives. That’s how I look at it, and it’s just crazy.”
E.J. Brinson, community advocate for the Summit County Think Tank Coalition, said, "There's just really no words that really can touch what has transpired today and all the other children have been shot throughout this year."
He added, “One is too many.”
Brinson said there has been enough talk and that it’s time for action.
“I could say that we need prevention programs. I can say we need a task force, more legislation,” Brinson said. “But until we're willing to invest in human life, poverty will perpetuate violence. We need an economic investment into the community to change the ecosystem in the inner city. So really, it boils down to: do we value human life?”
Brinson said he has children himself and to think about something like this happening to his own kids, “it’s unfathomable.”
He said protecting children must be a priority.
“It's more than just saying that they’re the future for us. They’re our right now,” Brinson said. “And so if we're going to say ‘Black lives matter,’ we need to really step up to the plate for our children. That’s from the government. Instead of just passing legislation and saying, ‘Hey, we deem this as a crisis,’ to really making sure that those dollars that they allocate get to the community to really make a difference.”
He said people in the community must also take an active role to protect children.
"We don't need any more task forces. We know, we've studied these issues. We know what the problems are. We just need the resources to really make sure we protect our kids,” Brinson said.