Copley Township Remembers Victims of Shooting Rampage at Prayer Vigil
Community and religious leaders comfort shocked neighbors and friends of the dead.
It was still daylight as Joe Caruso passed out candles at the prayer vigil for eight dead in a morning shooting spree in Copley Township.
Friends and neighbors stood shell shocked and grieving for their lost neighbors and friends; at least three of the dead were children.
"At times like this we just want to be of some help," said Caruso, who is Pastor of Outreach Missions at Grace Church in Bath.
About 200 children and adults stood in a clearing between playground equipment and a picnic shelter singing gospel songs and praying. They were trying to make sense of the random deaths of children and the innocent -- something Bath Church Senior Pastor Rev. Jeff Bogue called "a great mystery of faith."
"This is troubling, why such evil would come to our township," he said. "But coming together like this as a community, as an act of faith is something that will please God."
Bogue directed the mourners to the Facebook site the Johnson Family Memorial Wall.
Although the police have not officially identified the dead, neighbors at the vigil named the victims of the shooting as husband and wife Russell and Gudrun Johnson, Copley High School student Autumn Johnson, 17, Brian Johnston, Scott Dieter, 11, of Kentucky, and his aunt, Becky Dieter.
The alleged shooter, who is believed to be Becky Dieter's longtime boyfriend, has not been named.
Dana Dort is a 2011 Copley High School graduate who will turn 18 tomorrow without her friend. She stood locking arms with a group of girls and recalled Autumn Johnson, who she said she saw less than a week ago.
"It's hard to come back to something like this," Dort said, shaking her head. "She was younger, but we had gym class together last year, so we were friends. Last week we were all just sitting by the pool talking. When I first heard, I thought she was a survivor. Then the next thing I knew..."
Another young girl, another Copley student, is reportedly among the dead.
Raphael Vaccaro stood at the edge of the crowd going over the confusion of the early reports. "We got a call that said there was a man running around Fairlawn Heights with a gun near the Fairlawn Swim Club, which is right in my back yard. It took a while before we actually found out what really happened," he said. "The horrible news. The girl was tight with my kids... they were just going swimming."
Vaccaro said he was on his way home to tell his own children what happened. He has no idea what he will say.
"How do you tell something like this?"
Copley Township Police have scheduled a news conference for noon tomorrow (Aug. 7) at Copley Community Center.
Copley-Fairlawn Schools counselors will be at the high school tomorrow for any student who wants to speak with them.