AKRON, Ohio — Twenty-month-old Tyree Halsell’s life ended before it even began.
“It was snuffed out and it was senseless,” said Wonderous Halsell, his grandma. “He was just starting to get the grasp of things. He was just starting to explore things.”
For Wonderous Halsell, the pain of his loss is still as fresh as the day it happened.
“He was a lovely boy,” said Halsell. “You took my sweet angel.”
Tyree died in August in a drive-by shooting on Akron’s east side, and more than 6 months later, his killer still has not been caught.
“If they find the killer, they find the killer. But I know who is going to find him first and that’s God,” she said.
The Halsell family is not alone in their grief, as Tyree was one of several children who lost their lives to violence in Akron in 2020.
Lt. Michael Miller with the Akron Police Department said they’re working to make sure that doesn’t happen again.
“If this summer, in particular, has taught us anything, it allowed us to hear the needs and the pleas from the community,” he said. “The message for the community is, simply, that we have not forgotten. We have not forgotten. Those incidents have had a ripple effect across the community and it has the full attention of our senior leadership on the police department.”
Lt. Miller said that plea was to make the streets safer.
“We believe that getting these guns off the street, hopefully, we will start to see it pay dividends with decreasing the number of incidents,” he said.
In January alone, the department seized 98 illegal guns, 21 more than this time last year. Officers arrested 83 people on gun-related charges like aggravated burglary, aggravated robbery, carrying concealed weapons, felonious assault and murder.
“We are tasked with coming up with a game plan to try to address some of this, so, some of those numbers that you see reflected are just a snapshot of some of those efforts.”
He said they’ve utilized a data-driven approach that identifies the areas hardest hit by violent crime and will continue to work diligently to get guns out of the hands of criminals.
Leanne Graham with the Victim Assistance Program, a nonprofit organization that serves Summit County residents who are impacted by crisis, said the number of people who have reached out for help in the community has skyrocketed in 2020. She said the beginning of 2021 has also been extremely busy.
“Looking at January's numbers, about 400 victims utilized our hotline services for support for many different tragedies they're going through,” she said. “We've served 37 individual people who have lost a loved one or a family member to a homicide here in Summit County, just in January alone.”
She said she, too, has been picking up the phone and calling other community stakeholders to see what more can be done.
“To try to determine, is there a national program out there that does work and can be replicated in our community to decrease the violence?”
For Halsell, confiscating illegal guns is bittersweet because while she believes it will make the streets safer, it won’t bring Tyree back.
“If they get some of these guns out of here, it would be a much better place,” she said.