New Details Emerge About Gunman Who Killed 9 People In Dayton, Ohio

Aug 5, 2019
Originally published on August 5, 2019 7:16 pm
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ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

We are learning more about the gunman who killed nine people and wounded dozens more in Dayton, Ohio, early Sunday morning before being killed by police. So far, authorities have been reluctant to talk about a motive for the shooter. The young man's former classmates say they saw troubling signs of his obsession with killing and death going back years.

NPR's Joel Rose is in Dayton and joins us now.

Hi, Joel.

JOEL ROSE, BYLINE: Hey, Ari.

SHAPIRO: What have you been able to learn about the gunman today?

ROSE: His name was Connor Betts. He was 24 years old from Bellbrook, Ohio, which is a leafy suburb south of Dayton. And as we've seen before in cases like this, different people have incredibly different impressions of him. I talked to a few employees at a local gas station, where he had worked for several years. And they described him as a regular kid, a nice guy. A young woman who worked alongside him said she was very upset. She considered him a friend.

But people who went to high school with him say they saw red flags years ago. They say it was well-known that he was suspended from school for making lists of students that he said he wanted to kill and to rape.

SHAPIRO: You've talked to some of the students who went to school with him. What did they tell you?

ROSE: I talked to a couple of Bellbrook High School graduates outside a popular local restaurant that is about a mile from the gunman's house. And I talked to two young women who said they were in ninth grade when Betts was a senior in high school. Their names are Shay Stout and Bryce Henry. Stout speaks first.

SHAY STOUT: My brother called me the other day and said that someone was from Bellbrook that had, you know, done the shootings and everything. Before his name was released, I said to him, I bet it was Connor Betts.

BRYCE HENRY: If anybody's going to hurt somebody, it's going to be this kid.

STOUT: Yeah. It was kind of like...

HENRY: Like, he came off that way. Like, he had threatened it to, like, numerous people. He was in the theater program. And like, there's a lot of people that were in the theater program that I knew. And they would talk about, like - this guy, like...

STOUT: He scared them.

HENRY: ...Made all of the women in there, like, scared.

ROSE: In fact, Shay Stout says her older sister was one of the girls on that rape list.

SHAPIRO: And what did her sister do?

ROSE: Well, she says both she and her sister were very upset. Stout says she tried to avoid Betts in high school - that there was something eerie, in her words, about him.

STOUT: Everyone knew at some point, something was going to happen. And so it kind of seemed like the school didn't really take it very seriously. I mean, he was removed from school, but he was able to come back.

SHAPIRO: And so what do local police and school officials say about that?

ROSE: Well, school officials would only acknowledge that he attended Bellbrook High School and graduated in 2013 and, by the way, that he was an active member in the drama club. But they have not confirmed that he was suspended. They say they can't release his disciplinary record or any of his school records, citing state privacy laws. Local police in the school's jurisdiction (inaudible) comment on whether they conducted an investigation when he was under 18. And in response to emailed questions, they sent a copy of the state law governing juvenile records and expungement but nothing else.

SHAPIRO: There was a little dropout on the line there - just want to clarify that local police in the school's jurisdiction declined to comment on whether they did an investigation when he was a minor. What else can you tell us about the investigation that Dayton Police are now conducting into that shooting early Sunday morning?

ROSE: Right. Well, the investigation is ongoing. The Dayton Police chief, Richard Biehl, said that investigators are looking at everything. He said the shooter did not have much interaction with law enforcement as an adult except for a couple of minor traffic violations. Biehl was asked about the allegations of the rape and kill lists, and he cautioned against jumping to conclusions so early in the investigation.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

RICHARD BIEHL: I'm a little bit reluctant, even if there's such evidence, to interpret it 10 years later as somehow this is indicative of what happened yesterday. Taking pieces of evidence and coming to a conclusion about its significance creates mistakes.

ROSE: Biehl said investigators are, quote, "not close enough," unquote, to establishing a motive for the shooting over the weekend. He said investigators haven't even established that the shooter was targeting his own sister. She was out with her brother that night. And at some point, they separated. Biehl was asked how it could have been an accident that she died in the attack. He said he didn't know and that we may never know.

SHAPIRO: That's NPR's Joel Rose speaking with us from Dayton, Ohio.

Thanks, Joel.

ROSE: You're welcome, Ari. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.