Copley gunman went to firing range days before deadly shooting rampage

Hance needed instruction on how to fire weapon

COPLEY TOWNSHIP, Ohio - Copley Township police said the gunman, who killed seven people and also shot and injured his girlfriend, visited a Barberton firing range two or three days before he went on the deadly rampage.

Investigators said Michael Hance went to The Marksman on Barber Road either August 4 or August 5 and brought with him a .45 caliber handgun that he had purchased on August 2 from Sydmor's Jewelry in Barberton.

"(Hance) really didn't know how to use the weapon. He went to a firing range to practice, but really didn't know how to use it. He had to be instructed on how to use that weapon," Lt. Luke Marchmon said.

Workers at The Marksman declined to comment on Friday.

Hance did not act strangely while at the range and gave no indication that he was planning to harm anyone, police said.

Investigators also revealed a new timeline of the shootings, based on several witness interviews and 911 calls.

Lt. Marchmon said it appears Craig Dieter, 51, was shot and killed first, followed by Russell Johnson, 67, and his 64-year-old wife, Gudrun.

Next, Hance shot and killed the Johnson's granddaughter, Autumn Johnson, 16, and her friend Amelia Shambaugh, who was also 16.

Hance then chased and gunned down 44-year-old Bryan Johnson. After that, he shot his girlfriend, Rebecca Dieter, 49, once or twice in the back. She's the only survivor.

Finally, Hance killed Scott Dieter, 11, who was hiding in a neighbor's basement.

"Obviously, he was on a mission to destroy those two families," Marchmon said.

Police are still trying to figure out a motive.

They recently searched Rebecca Dieter's home and found several rambling notes written by Hance. In some of the notes, Hance seemed obsessed with cancer. 

"In his own way, he was trying to research and to find methods to help cure cancer," Marchmon said.

However, the notes did not point to a clear motive and Hance did not write about hurting his girlfriend's family or the next door neighbors.

Investigators believe Hance had a delusional disorder, but was never treated.

Detectives have talked with his relatives, who had suggested to Hance that he get help for depression, but he refused and insisted he could rely on herbal remedies.

"Trying to get into his mind is just very, very difficult," Marchmon said.

Investigators tracked a couple of minor disagreements that Hance had with the Johnson family dating back at least one year.

In one instance, the family asked Hance to stop using a rototiller at midnight. In another incident, Hance apparently became angry when a child in the Johnson family was shooting a BB gun near the home where Hance was living with his girlfriend.

But nothing explains why Hance resorted to murder.

"Who does that because they have a dispute with a neighbor or they're upset with a neighbor?" Marchmon asked.

The key to getting possible answers may rest with Rebecca Dieter. She remains in Akron City Hospital and police have not been able to question her.

Hance was shot and killed by Copley Township police officer Ben Campbell. He remains on leave, which is standard procedure in a police-involved shooting.

The Summit County Sheriff's Department continues to investigate Campbell's use of deadly force.

Copley Township Police Chief Mike Mier said Campbell's actions probably saved other lives that day.

Print this article Back to Top

Comments

Copley Shooting Coverage

Copley police officer Ben Campbell honored for bravery Copley police officer Ben Campbell honored for bravery

Copley police officer Ben Campbell, who ended a deadly shooting spree in August 2011, was awarded the Congressional Badge of Bravery.

Victims Victims' families, police still coping with Copley shooting spree one year later

One year after a deadly shooting rampage in Copley Township, Officer Ben Campbell doesn't have any second thoughts or flashbacks to his split-second decision to kill gunman Michael Hance.

Memorial service to be held for 7 killed in Copley shooting rampage August 7, 2011 Memorial service to be held for 7 killed in Copley shooting rampage August 7, 2011

One year ago Tuesday, the close-knit community of Copley Township was rattled when a man went on a shooting rampage, leaving 7 people dead.

Obama honors Copley patrolman for efforts after neighborhood shooting spree Obama honors Copley patrolman for efforts after neighborhood shooting spree

President Obama honored the nation's top police officers on Saturday, including Patrolman Ben Campbell from Copley Township.