Dayton, Ohio, mass shooting: ‘I hate everybody’ crime

A woman cries during a vigil for the victims of the mass shooting that occurred over night, at the Levitt Pavilion on August 4, 2019, in Dayton, Ohio. In the second mass shooting in the U.S. within 24 hours a gunman left nine dead and another 27 wounded after only a minute of shooting. (Photo by Matthew Hatcher/Getty Images)
A woman cries during a vigil for the victims of the mass shooting that occurred over night, at the Levitt Pavilion on August 4, 2019, in Dayton, Ohio. In the second mass shooting in the U.S. within 24 hours a gunman left nine dead and another 27 wounded after only a minute of shooting. (Photo by Matthew Hatcher/Getty Images)

Credit: Matthew Hatcher

Credit: Matthew Hatcher

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.

» RELATED: For one Atlanta Lyft driver, Dayton shooting hits home

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