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July 15, 2008 - Joe Gorman
The sentencing of Elbert Shuler today in Mahoning County Common Pleas Court was interesting to me not just because he killed his brother. It was also because I was at the scene of the crime just minutes after it happened.
I have been to several major crime scenes during my career, but the death of Harold Shuler stands out to me for the gore and the mob scene around the body, something which is one of the most unerving things I have ever been around.
This was before the death of my infant daughter, so at the time I had no idea how people react when confronted with a tragedy like this, but the large crowd that gathered under a darkening sky (I can still remember that and a brief rain shower that added to the mugginess of the day) expressed its grief in a number of ways. A man pounded the pavement with his fists until they bloodied and several women, including the mother of both Shulers, were shrieking at the top of their lungs.
Add to this an almost circus atmosphere -- there was a junior high football team on hand, wearing shoulder pads and football pants and helmets dangling from the handlebars of their bikes; a teenage girl was nursing a baby in the backseat of a car; and patrons from the nearby Partners Jazz & Blues Lounge lined the sidewalk to watch the spectacle.
As to how I got there so quick, it is really quite simple; I was covering a City Council meeting and went downstairs to the police station to use the bathroom, which is the only restroom available in the city hall/police department complex after 5 p.m. In the roll call room is a screen that lists calls from the 911 center and I saw them place a call for a shooting on Oak Hill. I asked a supervisor about it and he said some officers were on the way and then another supervisor yelled to him that it was a homicide. I ran to my car and got to the corner of Oak Hill and Falls Avenue just after the first police car arrived and began snapping photos.
I will not talk about the gore, except to say there was a lot of it, even from my vantage point, where I was kept at a distance from the roped off crime scene. After police took down the crime scene tape the crowd of mourners stormed the crime scene and several of them fell to their knees in the backyard on the spot where Harold Shuler's body had been lying.
It's not often you get to see a crime story from the beginning to the end. If that is a good or bad thing, I have no idea.
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