Monday, July 23, 2001

As toddler recovers, mom hopes shooter pays

15-year-old arrested overnight

By Tom O'Neill
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Coko Ross knows the man whose gunfire precipitated the near-fatal shooting of her 2-year-old son. He called to see how her baby is, which she can respect. As for the other gunman ...

Coko Ross keeps close watch on son Devonte Williams.
(Yuli Wu photo)
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        “I want him,” Ms. Ross said Sunday at Children's Hospital, where Devonte Williams was upgraded to fair condition and has been increasingly responsive since the shooting Saturday in Over-the-Rhine.

        “If he's that scared, to be shooting,” she said, “he's going to get scared again. He can keep running all he wants. ... I want him to pay for what he did to my baby.”

        A 15-year-old boy was arrested overnight and charged with the shooting, police said.

        Dominick Mitchem, 24, the man police say started the gunfight, was arrested and charged Saturday with inducing panic, a fourth-degree felony. He also has two outstanding warrants, on charges of drug abuse and improper vehicle lights.

Devonte with brother Alfonso, 6.
(Family photo)
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        Ms. Ross, of North Fairmount, expressed deep thanks to the doctors, nurses, police officers — and the Good Samaritan who drove them to the hospital.

        “They came and checked up on” Devonte, she said of Cincinnati police officers involved. “They were very angry. He's a 2-year-old baby. They said, "We're gonna find him.'”

        A 70-person team of Cincinnati police are being trained for a special task force to combat the extraordinary upswing in shootings and other violence since the April riots. Devonte was the 78th person shot in 60 incidents since the April unrest.

        Ms. Ross works at the Deveroes clothing store in Over-the-Rhine and said she frequently talks with Mr. Mitchem. She was on a family swim outing Saturday with her two sons when — she recounted — Mr. Mitchem angrily began chasing the person who shot her son.

        Someone handed that person a gun. Then the baby took the shot he fired, which was intended for Mr. Mitchem. Then “Somebody said, "Baby been hit' - it got real quiet,” she described.

Devonte was lucky, doctors say.
(Yuli Wu photo)
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               The bullet entered the right side of Devonte's lower torso, hit his liver and diaphragm, and exited his left side.
       One of his doctors, Dr. Brad Warner of Children's Hospital, said Sunday the bullet missed a crucial artery by a half-inch.

        “He could have bled to death, real easily,” Dr. Warner said.

        Ms. Ross expressed hope that the shooting would help galvanize anti-violence sentiment in Cincinnati. Echoing that sentiment Sunday were Devonte's father, Alfonso Williams, and Ms. Ross' uncle and aunt, Jesse Wallace and Betty Logan of Bond Hill.

        “A bullet doesn't have a name,” said a somber Mr. Williams, who rushed back from the Black Expo in Indianapolis on Saturday. “I just feel there needs to be a change. Enough is enough. We can't just talk about it. Being black, it's already hard enough on us. It's got to stop.”

        Devonte is likely to be hospitalized for about three to five more days, but has opened his eyes, nodded to questions and expressed an appetite.

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