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Columbus Officials Look To Parents As They Investigate Bicentennial Park Shooting

Mayor Andrew Ginther speaking outside City Hall.
Nick Evans
Mayor Andrew Ginther speaking outside City Hall on Monday, May 24, 2021, in response to a weekend shooting at Bicentennial Park that killed a 16-year-old girl.

Columbus City officials are urging parents to take the lead after an unpermitted party at a Columbus park ended with gunfire and the death of a 16-year-old girl this weekend.

A little after 10 p.m. Saturday, calls about a party at Bicentennial Park started coming in on the police non-emergency line. It was only a noise complaint, so it was a low priority call. There was also a shift change coming up at 11 p.m. Just a few minutes before that at about 10:51 p.m., a police cruiser arrived on the scene. That’s also when police got their first calls about gunfire.

Columbus Mayor Andrew Ginther said many of the kids in the park shouldn’t have been there in the first place.

“The city’s not going to impose or enforce a curfew,” Ginther said. “We need you to do it. In your households, in your neighborhoods. To make sure that young people who should not be out in parks, or out at all after a certain hour at night, are home where they belong.”

The gunfire left 16-year-old Olivia Kurtz dead and five others, aged 15 to 19, injured. Police said two others were hurt after being trampled in the rush to leave the park.

Columbus Public Safety Director Ned Pettus said he was particularly shaken as updates about the victims’ ages began rolling in.

“19-years-old, 16-years-old, children,” Pettus said. “This is beyond troubling. It’s more than heartbreaking, and it is simply unacceptable."

Pettus and Ginther both insist that the police can’t be relied on to raise the city’s children.

Meanwhile, as of Monday afternoon the park remains an active crime scene, with police and cadets combing the grass for shell casings. Police are urging anyone with photos or video from the party to come forward. Interim police Chief Mike Woods asks parents to talk with their kids about it.

“It’s critically important that if a parent knows their children was there to have that discussion with them and if they discover any type of video or any information that they have, please reach out to us and provide us that information,” Woods said.

With a network of surveillance cameras in the area, the city should have options besides relying on the public coming forward. But Ginther acknowledges that’s not the case here.

“We have cameras at Bicentennial Park,” Ginther said. “Unfortunately we have learned that they were not working at the time of this incident. We take responsibility for that, and we’re fixing that immediately.”

Nick Evans was a reporter at WOSU's 89.7 NPR News. He spent four years in Tallahassee, Florida covering state government before joining the team at WOSU.