Atlanta Journal-Constitution reporter Jennifer Brett is on her way to Dayton, Ohio, to help with coverage there. Stay turned for her updates
It was a long and nerve-wracking night for Dayton native Marleen Tillman. Not long after news of the El Paso shooting spree flooded news sites and social media channels came word that terror had struck her hometown as well.
“The city’s already suffering,” she said, noting recent tornado activity that left more than 4,400 parcels damaged.
Overnight Saturday, a more sinister tragedy came calling. A gunman left nine dead and 27 injured in a popular nightlife district. Police officers who were in the area fatally shot the suspect.
“I’m still just completely amazed with the heroic actions of our police department,” Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley said during a news conference.
While authorities were providing updates, Tillman was driving for Lyft in Atlanta Sunday morning. Between fares she was also anxiously checking in with family members.
“My cousin hangs out at the bar,” she said, referring to Ned Peppers, where the shooting occurred.
The cousin and other family members are all alright but a family friend who was there was killed, she said.
That friend, Lois Oglesby, leaves behind a newborn and an older daughter.
Derasha Merrett learned what happened when the phone rang around around 3 a.m. A friend was on the line, delivering horrible news through sobs: “Lois got shot and she’s dead.”
Merrett and Lois Oglesby were more than just friends.
“We grew up as cousins,” she said. “We grew up in the same church, on the same drill team. She works at my kids’ daycare. We all grew up in this little town. We’re all family. We’re all hurting behind this.”
Oglesby had just returned to work at the daycare from maternity leave.
“I was like, I’m so happy you’re back at work. Now I don’t have to worry about who has my newborn,” she said. “She loves her kids unconditionally."
She added that her friend was in nursing school and looked forward to a career that would make the most of her love for children.
"She was a wonderful mother, a wonderful person," Merrett said. "I have cried so much, I can’t cry anymore.”
The Oregon district where the shooting broke out is known for its heavy police presence, she said.
“We never, ever would have thought this type of thing would happen right here in our city. A lot of people lot to go down to the Oregon district because they feel safe,” she said. “All of the police that stay down there, they didn’t see that man with an AR-15? Come on.”
Back in Atlanta, the tragedy had Tillman shaking her head.
“When it hits that close to home,” Tillman said, “there are no words.”