The fatal crash took place outside the main branch of the Dayton Metro Library, just blocks from the Oregon District, a popular nightlife area that became a site of mourning earlier this month when a gunman armed with a military-style weapon opened fire, killing nine and injuring 17. News crews on Monday documented a similarly affecting scene, with children being carried away from crumpled cars in stretchers as firetrucks and yellow police tape blocked off the downtown street.
Out of the 11 victims who were transported to local hospitals after the crash, seven were children, Dayton Police Lt. Col. Eric Henderson told reporters. Three were initially said to be in life-threatening condition, and the remaining victim’s condition is unclear. As of early Tuesday morning, police had not released the names of any of the victims.
According to authorities, the tragic chain of events began when the Dayton Police Department received a report of a stabbing at a home in the city’s East End at around 7:10 p.m. By the time officers arrived, the suspect had already fled.
Moments later, police in the neighboring city of Riverside, Ohio, which is east of Dayton, got a call about a pickup truck that had slammed into a tree. The driver, who authorities say was the suspect wanted in the Dayton stabbing, had climbed out of the car and was running around in the middle of a four-lane road that is one of the city’s main arteries, Jonathan Poston, an eyewitness who dialed 911, told the Daily News and WHIO.
“I thought something was wrong with [the man], because he was pacing back and forth across Airway [Road] — in traffic,” Poston told the outlets. “He was definitely on something.”
When Riverside Police officers arrived to examine the wreckage, the suspect managed to steal a police SUV and escape, hitting another police car in the process, authorities said at Monday night’s briefing. Poston told the Daily News and WHIO that the officer stepped out of his car just in time for the suspect to dash out from behind the SUV, jump into the passenger side of the vehicle and lock the doors. The officer immediately unlocked the doors and used his Taser to try to stop the suspect, but the man fought back, jamming the SUV into reverse and fleeing the scene.
“I’ve never seen anybody get Tased and not fall down immediately, let alone fight back with a police officer and take his vehicle,” Poston commented.
Video footage that Poston filmed and shared with WHIO shows an officer who appears to be trying to negotiate with the suspect while standing over the passenger-side door of the police cruiser. Suddenly, the SUV takes off and speeds backward down the road with the door still open and lights flashing, nearly crashing into more than a half-dozen cars that are stopped on the opposite side of the road. Still traveling in reverse, the driver hangs a sharp turn onto a side street, with another police SUV in close pursuit.
Officials said Monday that police had been unable to stop the SUV, which switched into drive after turning the corner and sped several miles west toward downtown Dayton before crashing into two cars and coming to a stop about 7:20 p.m. Tiffany Hameil, who was waiting at a nearby bus stop, told WHIO that she saw the stolen police SUV collide with another car that was driving through a busy intersection, setting off a domino effect where one of the cars spun out of control and slammed into other vehicles parked outside of the library.
“I was terrified,” she said. “There were car parts flying all over the street.”
Denorris Hopgood, who was walking to dinner with his family when he heard screaming, told the station that one van that was involved in the crash had seven children inside, some still young enough to be in car and booster seats. One child appeared to be severely injured, while another was pinned between a door and a seat, he said.
“I jumped out and did my best to get as many children out of the van as I could,” Hopgood said.
Police said no pedestrians were injured in the Monday evening crash, which left debris scattered across the sidewalk. Amid the broken glass, a crumpled bicycle could be seen in the wreckage.
The suspect, who has not been named, is in police custody and was taken to the hospital for treatment.
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