‘Cincinnati strong’ speakers say after horrific bank shootings

Michael Jackson, the new president and CEO of United Way of Greater Cincinnati, at podium, stands with civic and interfaith leaders at a prayer vigil on Fountain Square following the deadly violence at Fifth Third Center, also on the civic square. Herald Photo
Michael Jackson, the new president and CEO of United Way of Greater Cincinnati, at podium, stands with civic and interfaith leaders at a prayer vigil on Fountain Square following the deadly violence at Fifth Third Center, also on the civic square.

By Dan Yount, The Cincinnati Herald

Hamilton County Coroner Dr. Lakshmi Sammarco on Sept. 11 released new details Tuesday about the random shootings by a lone gunman that killed three people inside the lobby of the 30-story Fifth Third Center in downtown Cincinnati on Sept. 6. The shooter, who was killed at the scene by Cincinnati police, was 29-year-old Omar Santa-Perez, police said.

Sammarco said one victim’s was shot once, another was shot four times and another was shot seven times.

She identified the victims who died as Richard Newcomer, 64; Luis Felipe Calderón, 48; and Prudhvi Raj Kandepi, 25.

Two other people were injured in the downtown shooting. Brian Sarver was released from the hospital Monday. Whitney Austin, Fifth Third Bank vice president and digital product lending manager, was shot 12 times and is recovering in the hospital.

Santa-Perez fired 35 rounds from a Taurus 9 mm semi-automatic handgun in four minutes and 28 seconds, police said. He also had more than 200 rounds of ammunition in a briefcase.

The fatal shot that killed Santa-Perez came from a shotgun, Sammarco said.

She said it was hard to watch and called the shooter “off the rails” and “intent on doing damage.”

“There was no hesitation in what he did. He was running back and forth between the elevator banks. He repeatedly shot the victims,” she said. “We don’t see cases like this.”

“All I can say to the families is we are truly sorry for what they’re going through,” she said. “I never would have imagined this would happen in Cincinnati.”

Speakers at a prayer vigil held Friday, Sept. 7, at Fountain Square remembered the lives of three victims who died.

Cincinnati police chief Eliot Isaac called the shooting a massacre, which lasted just under five minutes before officers stopped it by fatally shooting Santa Perez, before he could take more lives.

Chilling bank video and police body camera footage of the rampage were released by police the following day.

Santa-Perez is shown in the bank video of entering through the front entrance off Fifth Street at Fountain Square unleashing his rage of gunfire at anyone in sight. The police video shows police immediately facing his threat head on and stopping it by fatally shooting Perez.

Cincinnati Police Chief Eliot Isaac called the event “ a very horrific situation.’’

Four officers opened fire, shooting 11 rounds through the building’s large windows before Perez was killed, he said. Santa-Perez’s gun may have jammed before he was taken out, Isaac said.

The police chief said he is proud of the response his officers made, adding that Perez was prepared to kill hundreds if he could.

The officers involved in the shooting were identified as Officer Jennifer Chilton, who joined the Cincinnati Police Department in 2008; Officer Antonio Etter, who joined CPD in 2002; Officer Eric Kaminsky, who joined CPD in 1997; and Police Specialist Gregory Toyeas, who joined CPD in 1990. None of the officers were injured.

Isaac said he has spoken in-depth with the officers involved, and they’re all doing well,” “They know they did what they had to do. They were very resolved that they were there to save lives and they were very committed to that. As the police chief, as a fellow police officer, as a citizen of this city, I couldn’t be prouder of them.

“We have re-trained our officers this year in how to address these types of situations, Isaac said. “The citizens of Cincinnati should know that if they are involved in a similar situation, our police will be coming to their rescue immediately.’’

Police have determined that Santa-Perez’s gun jammed at some point during the attack. He legally bought the handgun used in the attack last month in Cincinnati, Isaac said.

Several nearby buildings were placed on lockdown as the situation unfolded. SWAT teams swept several buildings to ensure safety and to search for possible additional victims.

Witnesses in the area of Fountain Square described hearing more than a dozen gunshots ring out during the morning rush.

Eric Kearney, president of the Greater Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky African American Chamber of Commerce, was in a board meeting at the Westin Hotel across the street from the bank. He did not hear the shots, he said, but he saw emergency responders wheeling out victims on stretchers.

Authorities immediately searched Perez’ apartment in North Bend, a small community west of Cincinnati, looking for a motive. Nothing yet has stood out, Isaac said.

Isaac said Perez had filed a lawsuit against NBC Universal and TD Ameritrade and that he might have planned to make his way to the nearby federal courthouse. However, Perez had walked into several businesses in the area before he entered the Fifth Third Center around 9:06 a.m.

Investigators believe Perez had lived in Cincinnati since at least 2015, Isaac said. He had no local criminal history, although Isaac said he had a “brief misdemeanor criminal history in South Carolina and in Palm Beach County, Florida.”

Isaac said Santa-Perez may have had mental issues, and this week, it has been reported that members of his family in Miami has urged him to obtain professional help.

Perez had been employed at several locations since moving here, but not at Fifth Third Bank, he said.

Cincinnati Mayor John Cranley praised police, 911 dispatchers and other first responders for their actions Thursday.

“First and foremost, our hearts and prayers go out to the victims and their families. Cincinnati’s finest police and firefighters acted swiftly and courageously, and we are indebted to their heroic service. They were able to stop the threat and clearly prevented a much worse tragedy and loss of life.’’

Officials with Fifth Third bank released a statement in wake of the shooting, saying, “Our thoughts and prayers are with everyone caught up in this terrible event. We continue to work with law enforcement as we ensure the safety of our employees and customers.’’

Acting City Manager Patrick Duhaney said, “This is a true tragedy. Our police and fire departments once again bravely answered the call of duty and performed phenomenally when they were called upon. Their actions undoubtedly saved lives today.’’

Cincinnati Vice Mayor Christopher Smitherman, who chairs the city’s law and public safety committee, said, Cincinnati has never been immune from this type of violence. It has always been a question of “when, not if.’’

In a statement, members of the family of victim Pruthviraj Kandepi — a 25-year-old consulate of Fifth Third Bank, who was from India, said, “Our hearts break for all the victims who perished in Cincinnati on September 6, especially for the Fifth Third Bank family, and our thoughts and prayers are with the victims’ families, colleagues and friends.

“We won’t let this moment define Cincinnati, and we will continue working diligently to ensure international students and Indian young professionals are always welcomed and embraced in our city.”

Body Camera Footage from Fountain Square Active Shooter Incident can be found here. (WARNING: Footage may show violent or graphic content)

The post ‘Cincinnati strong’ speakers say after horrific bank shootings appeared first on The Cincinnati Herald.

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