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Ohio Headlines

Fallen officer’s letter: ‘I hope I died with bravery’

TOLEDO, Ohio (AP) — The mayor of Ohio’s fourth-largest city said during a memorial service Tuesday that a police officer shot and killed over the weekend was loyal throughout his life and during his final moments.
“In his last gasp, he demonstrated his truth and loyalty. ‘Tell my family I love them,'” Toledo Mayor Wade Kapszukiewicz said, referring to Toledo police Officer Anthony Dia’s final words before he died.
Dia was gunned down in a store parking lot by an intoxicated man holding a beer early Saturday and was pronounced dead at a hospital.
Witnesses said the 57-year-old man fled into a wooded area after the shooting, and officers later found him dead of an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound, police said.
Dia, 26, had been an officer for nearly two years and left behind a wife and a two sons.
During the service, Moustafa Rahal, one of Dia’s cousins, read a letter that the officer wrote to his family in the event of his death, The Blade reported.
“Every day I put on the uniform, it was my intention to protect the weak and innocent in my community from evil,” wrote Dia, who was Muslim. “I hope I died with bravery.”
“I know that one day, we’ll all see each other again. But until then, I’ll ask Allah to let me visit you all as much as possible and watch over you as much as I can,” he wrote. “From Allah we come, to Allah we shall return.”
Law enforcement officers from across Ohio and neighboring states were among those who filled an arena at the University of Toledo.
“A family is devastated. A city is hurting. My police department is hurting. And we’re all trying to understand the whys of a senseless murder,” said Police Chief George Kral.
Afterward, residents lined the streets to watch the procession carrying Dia’s body to a cemetery for a private burial.

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Ohio Headlines

Governor requires masks for residents of 7 hard-hit counties

By FARNOUSH AMIRI and JULIE CARR SMYTH Report for America/Associated Press
COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — Residents of seven Ohio counties will be mandated to wear a mask when out in public, Gov. Mike DeWine announced during a briefing Tuesday as the number of hospitalizations from COVID-19 reached the highest count in at least 21 days.
The governor said the mandate will impact residents of Butler, Cuyahoga, Franklin, Hamilton, Huron, Montgomery and Trumbull counties starting at 6 p.m. on Wednesday.
Three of those counties are home to the state’s three largest cities, Columbus, Cleveland and Cincinnati.
Ohio saw 948 reported cases Tuesday, pushing the total number of probable and reported cases statewide to 58,904. The state reported 134 hospitalizations.
Residents in impacted counties must wear a mask when out in public or in a place where they are unable to follow social distancing rules.
It will not be required for children under the age of 10 or anyone who has a medical condition that keeps them from wearing a mask.
The mandate is to be enforced by state and local authorities, not by businesses. However, Lt. Gov. Jon Husted said businesses will have to comply.
The mask mandate comes after DeWine announced last week that he will not be issuing a statewide mandate like a number of other states have, including Ohio’s neighbor, West Virginia.
DeWine pushed back against criticism that he has waffled on mask-wearing over the months, initially requiring them statewide before rescinding that mandate the next day. He said, “We’re now at a much more dangerous time,” and that he believes the public is now ready. He said imposing the mandate in just those counties that are “red hot” is fair.
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GOVERNOR’S VIRUS AID LOAN
Data released Monday showed a minor league baseball team partly owned by DeWine was among a number of businesses that received a loan from a $600 billion-plus coronavirus aid program.
DeWine Seeds-Silver Dollar Baseball received a loan under the Small Business Administration’s Paycheck Protection Program for $189,500.
When asked about the criticism he and other elected officials are facing after receiving a loan meant for small business owners, DeWine said the baseball team is a small business, with only 12 or 14 full-time employees.
“We understand what small businesses are going through,” DeWine said during Tuesday’s briefing. “I am not asking anyone to feel sorry for us but if you run a minor league baseball team in Ohio, there are no seasons right now.”
Spokesman Dan Tierney said the loan was used to cover payroll and payroll-related expenses for the Asheville Tourists team in North Carolina.
DeWine’s son, Brian DeWine, currently serves as president of the baseball team.
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STATE LAWMAKER CONTRACTS VIRUS
The leader of the Ohio Legislative Black Caucus said she has tested positive for COVID-19.
State Rep. Stephanie Howse, a Cleveland Democrat, announced her diagnosis in a video posted to Twitter on Monday.
She said her symptoms — cough, loss of taste and smell — “are pretty mild” and she expects “prayerfully” to fully recover.
DeWine said during his Tuesday press briefing that he was thinking of Howse and hoping she recovers soon.
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RETAIL, FOOD WORKER TESTING
Hundreds of people who work at the bars, restaurants and tourist shops in the Lake Erie island community of Put-In-Bay will be tested for the virus, health officials said this week.
The decision comes after less than 10 cases were linked to the island and two popular food and drinking spots closed in recent days — one after two employees tested positive and the other after a worker was showing symptoms.
As many as 1,000 workers could be tested, Jerry Bingham, Ottawa County’s health commissioner told the Sandusky Register.
Put-in-Bay Mayor Jessica Dress said the village’s businesses told her they support the widespread testing. The county health department said a week ago that seven people tested positive after visiting the island in mid-June.
The two main ferry lines that bring tourists and residents to the island said this week they now will require all passengers to wear masks on their boats.
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Associated Press reporter John Seewer in Toledo contributed to this report. Farnoush Amiri is a corps member for the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on undercovered issues.

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Ohio Headlines

Toledo police to temporarily suspend use of solo patrols

TOLEDO, Ohio (AP) — The police chief of Toledo says he is temporarily suspending use of single-officer patrols following the shooting death of an officer gunned down in a store parking lot by an intoxicated man holding a beer.
Chief George Kral told reporters Monday that the suspension “can’t be forever” but will be in effect while officials consider ways to increase officer safety. And he said even when single-officer units are dispatched, a second such unit is also dispatched — and in this case, Kral said, “literally … within 30 seconds the cavalry was there.”
Officer Anthony Dia was shot in the chest just after midnight Friday in the parking lot of a Home Depot and was pronounced dead at a hospital. He was wearing a bulletproof vest but the round entered at a point “where there was no coverage,” Kral said.
Witnesses told police the man fled into a wooded area after the shooting, and officers later heard a single gunshot in the woods. The 57-year-old man was found dead of an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head around 3:15 a.m. Saturday, police said.
Dia, 26, a Muslim, leaves behind a wife and a 2-year-old child. The Imam Ali Mosque announced a memorial service Tuesday at the University of Toledo. Gov. Mike DeWine earlier ordered flags in Lucas County and at the Ohio Statehouse to fly at half-staff from Sunday through the officer’s funeral service.

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Ohio Headlines

Authorities: Missing 8-year-old boy found dead in hotel pool

STRONGSVILLE, Ohio (AP) — An 8-year-old boy who went missing while staying at a hotel in a Cleveland suburb was found dead early Tuesday in the hotel pool, authorities said.
Police responded to the Strongsville Holiday Inn around 3 p.m. Monday after Christopher Johnson, of East Cleveland, was reported missing. Authorities and family members then spent several hours searching the hotel and the surrounding area until the boy was found around 12:45 a.m. Tuesday.
The Cuyahoga County Medical Examiner’s Office has not yet ruled on the cause or manner of death. Authorities said the boy had disabilities, but did not provide further information.
It wasn’t clear how the boy got in the pool or how long he had been there before he was found.
Authorities declined further comment, citing the ongoing investigation.

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Ohio Headlines

Woman found dead in barrel identified; cause of death sought

MIDDLETOWN, Ohio (AP) — A woman whose body was found in a barrel at an Ohio home last week has been identified, but the cause of her death remains under investigation.
The Butler County coroner’s office said the remains of 21-year-old Cecily Cornett of Somerville were found June 30 in the barrel at the residence in Middletown, roughly halfway between Cincinnati and Dayton.
The cause and manner of her death were listed as pending.
Police said they arrested a man after they allege he tossed the barrel over a backyard fence when officers arrived. William Slaton, 35, is charged with gross abuse of a corpse, evidence-tampering and failure to report a crime or death; a message seeking comment was left for his attorney.

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Ohio Headlines

Ohio capital removes statue of namesake Christopher Columbus

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — The Ohio capital named for Christopher Columbus removed a large statue of him outside its city hall on Wednesday, taking down what the mayor described as a symbol of divisiveness and oppression.
The national outcry in recent weeks over racial injustice has amplified criticism that monuments to the explorer honor a legacy linked to the decimation of indigenous peoples.
Columbus city officials said the statue will be put in storage. Mayor Andrew Ginther has said he’s asked the Columbus Art Commission to help figure out what should replace the statue and to reevaluate related symbolism, such as the city’s seal and flag.
Columbus State Community College also recently removed its statue of the namesake.
Another statue of Columbus remains downtown outside the Ohio Statehouse, a few blocks from the city hall. The board that oversees the property is slated to meet July 16 to consider whether that statue should go, too.

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Ohio Headlines

Father accused of abusing son is indicted on murder charges

DAYTON, Ohio (AP) — A father accused of abusing his 10-year-old son, who died last year, is now facing murder charges in a new indictment that also brings more counts against his girlfriend.
Al-Mutahan McLean, 31, faces four counts of murder, two counts of child endangerment and single counts of involuntary manslaughter and kidnapping in the indictment handed up Wednesday by a Montgomery County grand jury. He also faces felonious assault and rape charges that he had pleaded not guilty to last December, shortly after the death of his son Takoda Collins.
The boy died after he was taken to Dayton Children’s Hospital because he was unresponsive. His body was cut and bruised, and he had apparently been locked in a dirty attic and held under water before he died, authorities have alleged in court documents.
McLean could face life in prison without parole if convicted, but prosecutors said Wednesday he is not eligible for the death penalty. A judge had ruled in March that he was competent to stand trial after McClean had entered a motion in court in January seeking an evaluation of his mental state.
McLean’s girlfriend, 29-year-old Amanda Hinze faces four counts of involuntary manslaughter, two counts of child endangerment and a kidnapping charge in the new indictment. She already was charged with four additional counts of child endangerment.
Hinze’s lawyer did not respond to requests for comment.
County prosecutors also announced Wednesday that Hinze’s sister, Jennifer Ebert, pleaded guilty in May to involuntary manslaughter and child endangerment counts. She has not yet been sentenced.
Prosecutors declined comment on Ebert’s case because it’s sealed from the public.

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Ohio Headlines

Attorney charged in bribery scheme to stay free until trial

TOLEDO, Ohio (AP) — A private attorney accused along with four Toledo City Council members of taking part in a bribery and extortion scheme will be allowed to remain free while the case proceeds, a judge has ruled.
Federal prosecutors had sought to have Keith Mitchell detained until his trial, arguing that he eluded authorities for more than a day after learning of the pending charges. They also said Mitchell potentially obstructed justice when he called the council members after learning he and they were the targets of the corruption probe.
Mitchell, 69, told a federal judge late Wednesday that he thought the call he received early Tuesday from an FBI agent was nothing more than a prank, which is why he did not disclose his location during the call.
Mitchell and his four co-defendants — Tyrone Riley, Yvonne Harper, Larry Sykes and Garrick “Gary” Johnson, all Democrats who serve on the council — face bribery and extortion charges. Harper also faces a count of interstate communications with intent to extort, and prosecutors allege she used Mitchell to solicit and funnel bribe payments.
The four council members were all arrested early Tuesday without incident and were released later that day after making their initial court appearances. Each defendant could face up to 10 years on the bribery counts and 20 years on the extortion counts.

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Ohio Headlines

Ohio priest indicted on federal child pornography charges

CLEVELAND (AP) — An Ohio Roman Catholic priest has been accused in a federal indictment of posing online as a female to persuade boys to send him sexually explicit photos and videos of themselves and threatening to tell their parents if they did not send more images, the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Cleveland alleged Thursday.
Robert McWilliams, 40, followed through on his threats and sent some mothers images of their sons, prosecutors alleged. Some boys McWilliams targeted belonged to parishes where he served, prosecutors said.
McWilliams was indicted Wednesday on two counts of sex trafficking of a minor, three counts of sexual exploitation of children, one count of transportation of child pornography, one count of receiving and distributing depictions of minors engaged in sexually explicit conduct and one count of possession of child pornography.
Prosecutors alleged McWilliams paid a boy he met on a social networking website for sex.
A message seeking comment was left with McWilliams’ attorney on Thursday.
McWilliams was arrested in December outside Cleveland at St. Joseph Catholic Church in Strongsville, where he was parochial vicar at the parish school.

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Ohio Headlines

New color-coded alert system assesses virus risk around Ohio

By ANDREW WELSH-HUGGINS and KANTELE FRANKO Associated Press
COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — Ohio is using a new color-coded, county-by-county coronavirus alert and advisory system to assess which areas may be seeing flare-ups of cases and should take additional precautions, Gov. Mike DeWine said Thursday.
The system takes into account seven indicators for each county, such as sustained increases in cases and in coronavirus-related hospital admissions, outpatient visits and emergency room visits, and the proportion of cases that aren’t connected to congregate settings, such as prisons or nursing homes. State officials said they also intend to factor in information from coronavirus testing and contact-tracing.
No counties are listed in the most concerning level — labeled purple — but Columbus and surrounding Franklin County are being watched closely as their data indicators are trending in that direction based on “explosive” growth in positive tests, DeWine said.
Franklin and six more counties — Butler, Cuyahoga, Hamilton, Huron, Montgomery and Trumbull — are labeled red, indicating risk there is considered very high and people there should limit activity away from home as much as possible and wear masks when they go out. Twenty-eight counties were in the orange category Thursday, and 53 were labeled with the least-concerning yellow.
DeWine also shared long-awaited guidance for schools considering whether and how to reopen. Most teachers will be required to wear masks or face shields at Ohio schools that resume in-person classes this fall, and face coverings are strongly recommended for students in third grade and above, he said.
State officials are urging schools to use social distancing, vigilantly assess symptoms, provide hand sanitizer, and thoroughly clean school spaces, but the guidance leaves many details up to the districts.
With widespread agreement that it’s important to get children back into school buildings when safely possible, the guidance is aimed at balancing safety, local control of schools and the state’s obligation to educate children, DeWine said.
Some districts already moved ahead with their own proposals. Columbus, the state’s largest district, this week announced plans for all-online classes for high school students at least through the fall, and younger students in classrooms only two days a week.
The number of confirmed and probable coronavirus cases in Ohio continues to climb. The state’s one-day tally Wednesday topped 1,000 for the first time in two months.
Mayor Andrew Ginther announced that Columbus will join Dayton in mandating mask wearing in public, beginning Friday, as the capital sees a rise in positive cases, especially among youth. Similar proposals are emerging in other cities, including Akron and Cincinnati.
The Columbus order will make exceptions for those with medical conditions and children younger than 6. Ginther called it “an opportunity to take personal responsibility” and noted police won’t cite people for not wearing face coverings.
“We cannot enforce our way to success,” he said. “We need compliance and we need people to step up.”
DeWine again urged Ohioans to continue wearing face masks but said he does not intend to make it a statewide requirement.
Also Thursday, the state said the slowdown in Ohio unemployment claims continues as it reported an ongoing decline in the number of continued applications for benefits driven by the state shutdown orders.
More than 1.4 million jobless claims have been filed in Ohio in the past 15 weeks, and more than $4.7 billion made in payments, the Department of Job and Family Services said.
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Follow AP coverage of the pandemic at https://apnews.com/VirusOutbreak and https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak.