Ned Peppers would not close for another hour, and the crowd inside the bar and on the outdoor patio early Sunday was lively. The line to get inside stretched around the block, and the revelers were black and white, men and women, spanning at least two generations. One was the mother of a newborn, another was a nutrition trainer. Within seconds, both would be dead, along with seven others.
Among the victims killed in the barrage of gunfire outside Ned Peppers, a popular spot in Dayton, Ohio, was the gunman’s sister, a 22-year-old college student described as “bubbly” and “outgoing.” Investigators had not determined Sunday evening whether the gunman, armed with a military-style rifle and clad in protective armor, had specifically targeted his sister or anyone else in the crowd.
The gunman, identified as Connor Betts, 24, was killed by police as he tried to run into the bar, in an area of Dayton known for its night life, popular with college students and heavily policed. His sister, Megan Betts, gradated from Bellbrook High School two years behind her brother, and played in the marching band with him. She was “outgoing,” while her brother was more withdrawn, said Alex Gerbic, another member if the band.
“She was a very bubbly personality - very kind,” Gerbic said.
“From what I knew, they were close, as brother and sister. This was five or six years ago.”
Gerbic, who said he hadn’t been particularly close to either sibling, said he never noticed anything odd or antagonistic about their relationship.
“I think she had a great affection for her brother,” he said.
The massacre outside Ned Peppers came only about 13 hours after a gunman stormed into a Walmart store in El Paso, Texas, and opened fire, killing 20 people and wounding at least 26 others as he stalked the aisles. The store is near the bicultural city’s border with Mexico, in an area heavily trafficked on weekends by El Paso residents and Mexican citizens alike.
Who are the victims?
Among those killed in Dayton were Lois L. Oglesby, 27; Derrick R. Fudge, 57; Logan Turner, 30; Nicholas P. Cumer, 25; Thomas J. McNichols, 25; Beatrice N. Warren-Curtis, 36; Saeed Saleh, 38; and Monica E. Brickhouse, 39. Six of those shot and killed were black, and three were white, including Megan Betts.
“We have no evidence to suggest that there’s a bias motive to this crime,” said Richard Biehl, the Dayton police chief.
Jevin Lamar, a musician from Dayton who moved to Los Angeles two years ago, said in a telephone interview that his cousin, McNichols, also known as Teejay, died in the shooting.
“He was a great father, a great brother - he was a protector,” Lamar said.
Lamar, who spoke by telephone from Switzerland, where he was attending a wedding, said he woke up Sunday morning and saw a social media post about a friend, Oglesby. He said he cried when he heard the news, and felt especially sad because she had just given birth and had at least one other daughter.
“Now she is gone, and they are never going to see their mother again,” he said.
After learning about her death, he said, he called his sister in Dayton. She was crying hysterically, too. That’s when he learned that his cousin had also been killed.
“’It’s Teejay,’ “ she told him. “He’s gone. He’s gone.”
Oglesby was a former student at Sinclair Community College in Dayton, as was another victim, Turner. “We grieve for all those impacted by this senseless act of violence,” said Dr. Steve Johnson, the president of the college.
Portraits of those who died - and of the 27 other people who were wounded in the massacre - were still emerging Sunday evening.
Three people who were shot were employees of the Maple Tree Cancer Alliance, a nutrition and fitness center in Dayton, including Cumer, who was killed, the center said in a statement.
Last week, the company had offered Cumer a full-time job running one of its new offices, after being impressed with his “loving and caring spirit” while he was an intern at the company.
Cumer was working toward a master’s degree in cancer care at Saint Francis University in Loretto, Pennsylvania.
“We join the nation in mourning Nicholas, alongside all of the victims of this tragedy,” the Rev. Malachi Van Tassell, the university president, said in a statement.
The other two Maple Tree Cancer Alliance employees who were shot are expected to make a full recovery, the company wrote on Facebook.
Across the country in Ohio Wright State University, a commuter school in the Dayton area that Megan Betts attended, posted a message on Facebook offering counseling services to students. She studied earth sciences and was expected to graduate next year.
According to a resume she posted on LinkedIn, she spent the summer in Montana working as a tour guide at the Missoula Smokejumper Visitor Center.
Last summer, she supervised children’s water activities at an urban park, according to Trish Butler, director of marketing and community engagement for Five Rivers MetroParks in Dayton. She also worked at Bed Bath & Beyond and Pier One.
The deaths in Dayton were especially painful and bewildering for graduates of Bellbrook High School who knew both the suspected gunman and his younger sister.
“It’s something that you never expect to happen, especially in your own backyard, or with people that you know,” Gerbic said.