The Rev. Jaland Finney and his wife walked the south side of East Exchange Street Sunday morning early in search of a missing girl, who was later found.
He suspected that she might be where young people typically congregate in Akron on Friday or Saturday nights, in off-campus apartments near the University of Akron.
Finney heard gunshots just before 1:30 a.m. and then saw a crowd of teens and young adults flee north. Maya Noelle McFetridge, an 18-year-old UA freshman, had been murdered.
The Second Baptist Church associate stood in awe that Sunday morning on a hill in front of a nearby gas station as the young man passed him. . They laughed and mocked each other as they flocked to a fight less than the length of a football field since the fatal shooting on Kling Street.
"It's like they didn't notice the loss of life, and that's what I'm trying to interrupt, trying to teach young people how to value their lives," he said. "It's like I've just escaped from a burning house, and I'm outside trying to tell people not to go in. And they're just running into the flames, pouring gas on them."
The Sunday shooting shook the college community, claiming its 39th life in Akron so far this year. A 25-year-old man remains in intensive care.
Striking a nerve with parents who send their children alone, the tragedy galvanized the determination of university leaders. With pledges of help from the city and county, McFetridge's death generated a rapid commitment of resources: increased city and university police patrols, a $ 50,000 reward for information on the killer, an offensive against the owners with a blind eye to the house out of control.
After six months of planning, the city, county, and university are now also deploying 50 new police cameras near campus to be served by city interns and students.
Mayor Dan Horrigan called the university "a fundamental institution in our community."
"As a community, as students, teachers, parents, and stakeholders – now is not the time to back down or turn around," said the mayor.
Community leaders in the areas experiencing the most gun violence say this week's actions are the response from "all of Akron" that the mayor and new police chief have been saying is needed.
Now they want to know when this same response will come to their neighborhoods.
"I have to emphasize how horrible it is – a young girl sent to school for an education and never comes home," Finney said. “However, this rush for resources; is the domino effect & mldr; These domino effects do not occur on Copley Road.
“Something has to be done, not these responses, these knee-jerk responses, only to back off when things settle down. All of these conversations and concerns were expressed last year when Tyree Halsell was assassinated. Two weeks later, Mikayla Pickett was murdered. Three weeks later, Mar'Viyah Jones. A 1 year, 8 year old, 6 year old boy in the span of six weeks was killed, and they all had these ideas about what we had to do.
"It's 14 months later and nothing has been done," said Finney, who is "tired of talking and working groups."
'I am the typical father who is always worried'
Community leaders have reacted with mixed emotions to the city's response to this latest murder. Some see hope in a model of security close to campus, which in relative terms is one of the safest places to be in the heart of Akron.
Others want to focus on where guns are most likely to kill or injure.
A census tract-level analysis of 1,280 firearm crimes, including assaults, shootings, and murders, from January 2020 through August this year shows 49 sub-neighborhoods in Akron with higher per capita gun activity than the northern half of University. Park, where most of the off-campus student housing is located.