Officials: Shooting ‘ambush’

Youngstown victims identified

YOUNGSTOWN — The three victims shot to death Wednesday evening on the city’s south side have been identified by the Mahoning County Coroner’s Office.

The victims were Edward Morris, 21; Valarcia Blair, 19; and their infant son, Tariq Morris, 3 months.

During a press conference at Youngstown Police headquarters Thursday afternoon, Mayor Tito Brown and police Chief Robin Lees called the triple shooting an “ambush,” with Edward Morris being the intended target.

“It appears an ongoing feud fueled this,” Lees said, but an exact motive has not yet been determined.

Lees said detectives have received solid leads in the shootings and several suspects have emerged. He said Morris had a violent criminal history and a previous arrest record, mostly for drugs, including crimes in Columbus.

Two officers ended up taking the baby to the hospital themselves rather than waiting for an ambulance, Lees said. The child was on life support before he died.

Lees said the two officers who drove the baby are two of the department’s younger officers and they have been offered counseling.

“That is the part of these situations that no one sees. We see what is reported in the media, but we don’t see that heart piece, that passion. Those officers are to be commended for making a life and death decision that unfortunately did not end the way we would have liked,” Brown said.

Lees said it looks like Morris was armed and was wary of his circumstances leading up to the attack. He said two guns were involved — an assault rifle and a 9 mm pistol. They think Morris fired at least two shots at the assailants.

He also said the three victims did not live in the area where the crime happened — Gibson Street and Pasadena Avenue — and investigators are working to find out why they were there.

The Rev. Ken Simon of New Bethel Baptist Church called on the community to “stop the violence.” He said residents need to step forward and “say something if you saw or heard something.”

Simon also said this is not the time for retaliation, which he said often accompanies a crime like this one.

During the press conference, Lees also commented on the recent string of murders in the city. Eight homicides have happened in less than a month.

He said it doesn’t look like the crimes are related but they do have a common thread of drugs. He also told the media that if the triple homicide had not happened, their lead story Thursday morning would have been a drug raid that was carried out on Philadelphia Avenue, also on the south side.

“A substantial amount of drugs, including fetanyl, and weapons were found, to the point that a federal prosecutor has adopted the case,” Lees said.

He said the officers at the raid heard the gunfire on Pasadena and some of them were diverted to the homicide.

Lees said none of the recent cases are closed, but they have made progress in each.

Brown said officers spent the summer patroling neighborhoods and doing community-oriented policing, getting to know some of the neighbors and it is those relationships that have helped provide information in the cases.

Police are asking people with information on any of these homicides to step forward and share what they know. They can call Youngstown police at 330-747-7911 or Crimestoppers Youngstown at 330-746-CLUE (2583). Monetary rewards are offered and tipsters can remain anonymous, Lees said.

Wednesaday’s homicides bring the city’s total to 20 for the year.