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Gun used in unsolved murders of Akron girl, man also fired in separate shooting

Police seek information on killings of Journei Tolbert and Johnny Gaiter
Akron shooting.jpg
Posted at 6:33 PM, Feb 10, 2023

AKRON, Ohio — A gun used in connection with the murders of a young girl and a man was also fired during a separate shooting last summer in Akron, according to police.

Detectives revealed the link to News 5 in an effort to generate leads in the unsolved shootings.

Police said 4-year-old Journei Tolbert and 40-year-old Johnny Gaiter were shot and killed on July 8, 2022 on Princeton Street after 34 bullets were fired from three guns into a crowd gathered for a vigil for a teen who died in 2021.

"It's the most coward act I've ever seen to be honest," said Detective Joe Smith. "They have no regard for human life."

Nine days before the double homicide, a barrage of bullets was fired on Talbot Avenue near McKinley Avenue. A camera in the neighborhood captured the sound of the repeated gunfire and video of the cars involved.

The June 29, 2022 video shows a Jeep Compass driving down Talbot Avenue followed by a Dodge Challenger.

Smith said moments later three men got out of the Jeep and fired 69 shots towards the Dodge which had two people inside of it.

The video captured the Dodge going quickly in reverse before crashing into a parked car in a driveway. Amazingly, no one was seriously injured.

"By the grace of God, they were not struck by those bullets. I don't know how, but they were very lucky," Smith said.

According to Smith, testing by BCI revealed one of the guns fired on Talbot Avenue was used nine days later when Journei and Gaiter were killed.

"We sent the cartridge casings from both scenes to BCI which was able to determine the same pistol fired .45-caliber casings through their lab testing," Smith said.

Investigators believe the shootings are part of an ongoing feud between two groups in North and West Akron.

Through leads from the public, police were able to track down the Jeep which was spotted at both crime scenes. The vehicle was confiscated and the owner has been identified, but no charges have been filed as the investigations continue, Smith told News 5.

"Honestly, we need help from the public," Smith said. "We just want to remind the community that this case is still going on. We don't want people to forget about Journei or Johnny."

Journei's great grandmother, Gloria Beasley, remembers the child as a "beautiful girl with a beautiful smile."

She said the family continues to agonize over the unsolved killings more than seven months later.

"We don't know why— why they did what the did. Who? We don't know anything," Beasley said. "It's just so heartbreaking. It's heartbreaking."

Summit County CrimeStoppers is offering a reward up to $5,000 for information leading to the killer or killers. Tipsters can remain anonymous when calling 330-434-COPS.

Both police and the victims' families are urging anyone with information to call police, fearing other families will endure their pain if arrests aren't made.

"Please turn them in or else they're going to do something else. If they keep getting away with it, they're gonna do it again," Beasley said.

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