Demoy Howell was a year behind Connor Betts at Bellbrook High School, about 20 minutes from Dayton, where they were in Junior ROTC together.
“He was always a little bit of an oddball,” said Howell, who graduated in 2014. “He had a dark sense of humor — jokes about people dying. He would wear all black. I remember sensing a dark energy around him.”
He never had a problem with Betts, but remembers friends saying he made them feel threatened or uncomfortable. The rigor of the military program seemed to have a calming influence, as Betts didn’t seem to have many friends, he added.
“Even though we all knew he was kind of weird, I felt like the colonels kind of kept him together,” Howell said. “There was a lockdown one year and it was because he wrote something in the bathroom. Then he kind of fell off the face of the earth. I don’t remember him walking (at graduation).”
Later, Howell said, the two worked together at a fast-food restaurant.
“Generally there was no issue,” he said. “He kind of kept it together.”
Betts also worked at a gas station where Howell would sometimes stop in to grab a drink.
“He was normal there, too,” he said. “He kept on a professional face.”
He and his friends frequent the Oregon District where, authorities say, Betts opened fire overnight and left nine dead. Police officers in the area fatally shot Betts within a minute. After getting off work on Saturday night, Howell had decided against heading to Oregon. Hours later, he heard the news.
“I think this is less of a hate crime and more of an ‘I hate everybody’ crime,” Howell said. “I honestly feel more comfortable now knowing that he’s gone.”
» Atlanta Journal-Constitution reporter Jennifer Brett is in Dayton, Ohio, to help our newspaper colleagues with coverage there. Return to AJC.com for more of her updates.
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