A graduate of Washington High School was among the nine people who were killed early Sunday in a mass shooting at a Dayton, Ohio, bar.
Nicholas P. Cumer, 25, was also a graduate student at St. Francis University in Loretto and was fulfilling a school-related internship in Dayton when he was killed, the university president said.
“We join the nation in mourning Nicholas, alongside all of the victims of this tragedy,” university president Malachi Van Tassell stated online in a message to students Sunday afternoon.
Cumer was enrolled in the university’s cancer care graduate program, and also earned his undergraduate degree at St. Francis, the school said.
Rueben Brock, an assistant professor of psychology at California University of Pennsylvania, memorialized Cumer on Facebook, saying it was heartbreaking to hear about the man’s death.
“This is just awful. Nick was a good kid,” Brock stated in his post. “This feels different when it’s someone you know.”
Brock said it would be impossible to find someone with something bad to say about Cumer.
“He was just a sweetheart of a guy,” Brock said.
He said his daughter Dominique attended her high school prom with Cumer.
“It’s just awful. He was absolutely a wonderful kid,” Brock said.
Twenty-seven people also were injured when the gunman, Connor Betts, 24, of Bellbrook, Ohio, opened fire shortly after 1 a.m. on Ned Peppers Bar in the city’s historic Oregon district.
Betts, who was wearing armor at the time, was shot and killed by police at the scene.
Cumer was a 2012 graduate of Washington High School, where he played on the girls volleyball team, said Teresa Booker, his former coach at Wash High.
Booker said the school didn’t have a boys volleyball team, that Cumer loved the sport and asked to play on her team.
“We said, ‘Why not?’” she said.
She said Cumer was a young man who would have done great things in his life.
“He’s a beautiful soul,” she said.
Cumer, who grew up in East Washington, was a son of Vicky and Ron Cumer. Both Brock and Booker said the family had asked for privacy at this time.
He was one week shy of completing his internship at Maple Tree Cancer Alliance, a nonprofit organization specializing in improving the quality of life of cancer victims while focusing on spiritual and physical health, the group stated on its Facebook page.
Cumer was among three of the organization’s trainers who were shot; two of whom are expected to make full recoveries, Maple Tree stated.
Maple Tree said it had offered Cumer a full-time job last week.
Stephen M. LoRusso, Cumer’s professor at St. Francis, said he was still coming to terms with the news that his student had been killed.
LoRusso said Cumer had shared from his internship that it was important to him that his patients felt comfortable talking to him.
“Yes, we are people who are helping this population with quality of life and fitness but one of my main goals here is to get to know my patients to the level of calling them friends to make them feel welcome when they work with me,” LoRusso said, quoting something Cumer had expressed to him from Dayton.
Pat Fitzgerald, another St. Francis professor, said Cumer had a big smile and great work ethic.
“He was always sincerely polite and professional. And he was always ready to give or receive a terrific hug,” Fitzgerald said.
He was a member of the undergraduate marching band at his university, where he also worked with the band as a graduate assistant.
“This senseless act has cut short the life of an incredibly gifted and talented young man,” said Dan Atwood, the university’s band director.
“The loss of Nick has left a hole in his family, our campus, our band family, and in each one of us who were fortunate enough to get to know him and call him our friend,” Atwood said.
The university was planning to celebrate a Mass this week in Cumer’s honor, said Marie Young, director of marketing and communications at St. Francis.
For families in southwestern Pennsylvania, Kennywood has been a staple of summer since it opened in 1898.
From its early rides like the carousel and Thunderbolt to its newest roller coaster, the Steel Curtain (the tallest in the state at 220 feet and featuring nine inversions), the amusement park has thrilled visitors for more than 120 years.
In fact, Pennsylvania has some of the most iconic amusement parks in the country: Hershey Park, Idlewild, Dorney Park and Lakemont Park are among them.
Canonsburg, it turns out, was once home to a popular amusement park.
For a brief time in the late 1920s and early 1930s, families flocked to Mapleview Park.
The 1920s are considered the golden age of amusement parks – by 1910, about 2,000 amusement parks were operating throughout the country, said Logan Dennison, whose family collects amusement park pieces for their private museum, American Amusement Park Museum.
And Mapleview was among them.
According to records and old articles, the park was opened in 1928 on 200 acres along Route 19, behind Frankie I’s Restaurant.
But, said Pittsburgh resident Jim Futrell, a historian for the National Amusement Park Historical Association, Mapleview Park probably opened too late for its own good.
“After the 1929 stock market crash and the Great Depression, many amusement parks closed,” said Futrell.
The number of amusement parks plummeted to about 500.
During its heyday, though, Mapleview offered a midway with state-of-the-art rides – a merry-go-round, Dodgem bumper cars, Tilt-a-Whirl, Whip, and The Dangler (swings that spun in a circle) – and a large dance pavilion where bands and musicians including Perry Como performed.
It was the site of picnics for school classes, companies, communities, organizations and clubs.
“I knew about Mapleview from my great-aunt,” said former Canonsburg resident Linda Stewart. “I remember seeing a picture of her with her husband and son standing in front of the roller coaster.”
The roller coaster was called the Brown Flyer, a nod to its designer, A.M. Brown, who was Mapleview’s supervising engineer. It was about 2,000 feet long and 80 feet high, similar in length and height to Kennywood’s Jack Rabbit.
“They probably bought what they considered to be the latest and greatest rides at the time. The roller coaster was a sizable ride,” said Futrell.
The Brown Flyer was the site of two fatal accidents in separate incidents, in 1929 and 1930, which were detailed by the late James T. Herron Jr., a historian from Canonsburg who wrote an extensive article about the park in 2011.
On June 29, shortly after the roller coaster was put into operation, Samuel Malone, 22, of Burgettstown, died after he fell out of the rear car.
The following year, 15-year-old Mario Mark was in the front seat of the roller coaster when he fell out as the coaster rounded a curve and was crushed by the car.
The roller coaster operated until 1935 – much longer than the midway rides – when it was dismantled and the wood was sold.
A swimming pool that was slated to be constructed when Mapleview opened was never built.
And after years of struggling to make a profit, the once-promising amusement park shut down in 1936 and was replaced with a golf driving range.
The dance pavilion enjoyed some success, hosting name bands and events such as dance marathons – including one marathon in 1933 where 29 couples participated and, after more than 10 days, 12 couples were still competing.
“Just about every amusement park had a dance pavilion,” said Dennison. “‘Cedar Point still has theirs, Hershey Park had one. Dances and dance marathons were popular, and a good way to attract people to parks.”
Patrick Arena of Washington said his father used to talk about going to Mapleview Park, where he said the Noah Sisle Band band with Lena Horne performed.
In December 1936, the dance pavilion was destroyed in a fire.
“It was a short-lived park, but it was significant because it was part of the second great wave of the park industry,” said Futrell.
The first occurred in the late 1800s, when trolley companies opened parks like Kennywood at the ends of trolley lines to get people to ride the trolley on weekends, Futrell said.
“They had carousels, picnic grounds and live entertainment,” he said.
But trolley companies started selling off parks as people began to rely less on trolleys, and more consumers began to own cars.
That led to the 1920s and the second wave, when entrepreneurs opened parks offering more thrilling rides.
The third wave, Futrell noted, began in the 1970s with the opening of Walt Disney World and corporate-backed theme parks like Busch Gardens.
In addition to Mapleview Park, Washington County was the site of two other amusement parks.
In 1903, Eldora Park opened in Carroll Township. It featured a figure-eight gravity roller coaster, a merry-go-round and a dance pavilion that was converted into a roller rink during winter months.
Donora Historical Society and Smog Museum offers walking tours of the Eldora Park grounds, which highlights how the park was you how it was laid out.
Cecil Township was home to Cabana Beach, a 25-acre park that included a figure-eight roller coaster and a Ferris wheel.
The park, originally called Rakun Lake, was open from the 1920s through 1950s.
Dennison, whose family has collected hundreds of amusement park pieces since 2006, believes there is a nostalgia to old and defunct parks that is captivating to people.
“Some parks try to capture the magic of past amusement parks, like in the Lost Kennywood section. Some parks’ legacies will always be remembered in movies or songs, such as Palisades Park in New Jersey,” said Dennison. “I think it reminds people of their grandparents. It’s how I feel when I visit Hershey Park, my home park. You can ride the same ride that your grandparents rode, that’s something unique.”
DAYTON, Ohio – A gunman wearing body armor and carrying extra magazines opened fire in a popular nightlife area of Dayton, Ohio, killing nine and injuring dozens, authorities say, in the second U.S. mass shooting in less than 24 hours.
Dayton police patrolling the area responded in less than a minute to the shooting, which unfolded around 1 a.m. Sunday on the streets of the Oregon District, Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley said at a press conference.
Whaley said if the police had not responded so quickly, “hundreds of people in the Oregon District could be dead today.”
The Oregon District is a historic neighborhood that Lt. Col. Matt Carper described as “a safe part of downtown,” home to entertainment options, including bars, restaurants and theaters.
The gunman, who has not been identified by authorities, was shot to death by responding officers. Whaley said he was carrying a .223-caliber rifle and had additional high-capacity magazines with him. Police believe there was only one shooter, and have not yet identified the suspect or a motive.
At least 26 others are being treated at area hospitals, though no details about their conditions have been released.
Miami Valley Hospital spokeswoman Terrea Little said the hospital had received 16 victims, but she couldn’t confirm their conditions. Kettering Health Network spokeswoman Elizabeth Long said multiple victims from a shooting had been brought to system hospitals, but she didn’t have details on how many.
Nikita Papillon, 23, was across the street at Newcom’s Tavern when the shooting started. She said she saw a girl she had talked to earlier lying outside Ned Peppers Bar.
“She had told me she liked my outfit and thought I was cute, and I told her I liked her outfit and I thought she was cute,” Papillon said. She herself had been to Ned Peppers the night before, describing it as the kind of place “where you don’t have to worry about someone shooting up the place.”
“People my age, we don’t think something like this is going to happen,” she said. “And when it happens, words can’t describe it.”
Tianycia Leonard, 28, was in the back, smoking, at Newcom’s. She heard “loud thumps” that she initially thought was people pounding on a dumpster.
“It was so noisy, but then you could tell it was gunshots and there was a lot of rounds,” Leonard said.
Gov. Mike DeWine issued his own statement before 7 a.m., announcing that he’s ordered flags in Ohio remain at half-mast and offered assistance to Whaley.
“Fran and I are absolutely heartbroken over the horrible attack that occurred this morning in Dayton, the statement said. “We join those across Ohio and this country in offering our prayers to victims and their families.”
The FBI is assisting with the investigation. A family assistance center was set up at the Dayton Convention Center.
The Ohio shooting came hours after a young man opened fire in a crowded El Paso, Texas, shopping area, leaving 20 dead and more than two dozen injured. Just days before, on July 28, a 19-year-old shot and killed three people, including two children, at Northern California’s Gilroy Garlic Festival.
Sunday’s shooting in Dayton is the 22nd mass killing of 2019 in the U.S., according to the AP/USA Today/Northeastern University mass murder database that tracks homicides where four or more people killed – not including the offender. The 20 mass killings in the U.S. in 2019 that preceded this weekend claimed 96 lives.
This story has been corrected to say the shooting took place around 1 a.m., not 1:22 a.m., per a Dayton police update.
Can you guess the significance of this object? Hint: It is part of the collection of artifacts housed by the Washington County Historical Society. Check back next Monday for an explanation as well as a new object to ponder. Turn to Page A2 to learn about last week’s object.