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‘Cincinnati strong’ speakers say after horrific bank shootings

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Omar Santa Perez, 29, begins his shooting rampage at Fifth Third Bank at Fountain Square in downtown Cincinnati Thursday morning, killing three. Photo from Fifth Third Bank security camera

By Dan Yount

The Cincinnati Herald

Speakers at a prayer vigil held Friday, Sept. 7, at Fountain Square remembered the lives of three victims fatally shot the previous day during the random shootings of a lone gunman inside the lobby of the 30-story Fifth Third Center in downtown Cincinnati.

Cincinnati police chief Eliot Isaac called the massacre, which lasted just five minutes before his officers stopped it by fatally shooting Omar Santa Perez, 29, before he could take more lives with his Taurus 9mm semi-automatic handgun that was backed by more than 200 rounds of ammunition he was carrying.

Police released the identities of the three victims Friday. They are Richard Newcomer, 64; Prudhui Raj Kandepi, 25; and Luis Calderon, 48. Two other people injured in the shooting remained hospitalized Friday.

Chilling bank video and police body camera footage of the rampage were released by police Friday afternoon.

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 the threat soon after the first shots were fired by fatally shooting Perez.

Two of the people shot by Perez fled to the loading dock, Isaac said. Also, unarmed security officers are shown in the video assisting people in leaving the lobby.

Isaac called the event “ a very horrific situation.’’

Four officers opened fire, shooting 11 rounds through the building’s large windows before Perez was subdued, he 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 Perez’s gun jammed at some point during the attack. He fired 35 rounds before he was shot and killed by police.

Perez had been carrying a suitcase that held about 250 additional rounds of ammunition. 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 of those 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, on Friday in 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.”

Perez had been employed at nearly five 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.’’

Smitherman says there needs to be a conversation about conceal and carry laws, for people kill people, not guns. “We also need to discuss whether we need a full-time SWAT team, have additional officers, provide more training and some other things,’’ he said.’’

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.”

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