CLEVELAND - The television newscasts blare out another troubling story again. Another troubled gunman has pointed his weapon at several people and squeezed the trigger, cutting the lives of people who had no idea they were in his gun sights.
In Copley, Ohio, a quiet community near Akron, the daylight hours of a Sunday were filled with the staccato sounds of gunfire. The weapon was held in the hands of Michael Hance, 51, whom police said was killed by police, but only after he had taken te lives of seven people.
Once again, there are television interviews of neighbors who say theirs was a quiet community where crime was relatively low. Once again, the people of Copley and other similar communities will ask themselves how such mass murder could happen in communities so tree-lined, so well-manicured.
Several months ago, while working on the story of Anthony Sowell, the convicted murderer of 11 women whose bodies were found in his Cleveland home, I visited the street. While walking in front of the scene of the mass murder at the hands of Sowell, I said what had happened in the city of Cleveland could have happened elsewhere.
"It could have been anyone's street," I spoke the words into the microphone and the camera lens of my WEWS-TV news camera. "Crime has a way of touching many neighborhoods; maybe even yours," I concluded that day.
I have been a professional journalist in Cleveland for more than 30 years. I have covered murders by the dozens. I have come to realize there are no 100 percent safe communities where crime will not strike. Certainly, crime peppers many neighborhoods more than others, but no neighborhood, city, town, or suburb is immune.
Sadly, crime has become part of the fabric of the American society. When I was a child growing up in the city of Cleveland, I never knew anyone who had been shot. I never knew anyone who knew of someone who had been shot. Gunfire was not part of my formative years in the 1950s and early 1960s. That is not to say there was no crime during my childhood. However, I am saying murder has increased significantly since the days of my youth.
Our world has changed and it startles us, as it should, when the television newscaster interrupts regular programming with that phrase "breaking news." It can hit like a slap in the face as many of us hold breaths, waiting for details on what has happened.
Sunday when the gunfire erupted out of the weapon wielded by Hance, whom police said lived with his girlfriend in Copley, who is recovering from her gunshot wounds, we held our breaths again. How could someone open fire on several innocent people in several different locations, taking the lives of seven while wounding one?
Police played the 911 telephone calls of Copley residents who had heard the blasts of the murder weapon and saw a crazed man running through the tree-lined neighborhood wielding the weapon. Even to listen to the recorded calls is unsettling.
Copley police said Hance shot his girlfriend, ran next door, shot her brother and gunned down four neighbors. Police said he then chased four people through two backyards, shooting one of them before bursting into a home where two others had sought refuge from the hail of bullets.
Copley police said Hance shot an eighth person there and left, only to get into a gunfight outside with a police officer and a citizen who had been a police officer. Hance was killed in the neighborhood, leaving more questions than answers.
It leaves the rest of us with hundreds of questions, the first of which is "why?" Answers do not come quickly. Even so, there are no acceptable answers that Hance could give if he were able to talk and describe what his thoughts were when he went on the rampage.
We live in a violent society. It is around all of us. No matter where we are, danger could be lurking around the corner or even sitting next to us in a public place where we all gather for events.
When I produced and wrote the story of Imperial Avenue several months ago, as I looked at a Cleveland street trying to find its footing again after the horrendous discovery of 11 murdered bodies found decomposing in and around the murderer's house, I talked with residents of the street. They were innocent people not tied in any way to the crime of their streets.
They were trying to find their steps again, but were also finding it difficult.
Each realized it was difficult to walk within sight of the house of horrors without thinking of what had happened over a period of months in their neighborhood until the bodies were discovered and uncovered.
One resident said it well: "There are serial killers in Idaho and in Maine and life goes on," he said. "It just hit our demographic this time; it hit our area."
Are we safe anywhere? Not 100 percent. Trouble resides among us. I wish I could give you reason for hope but if I had the answer, believe me, I would share it with you right here. So before we point fingers at other neighborhoods where crime has sucked the life out of