Sunday, November 16, 2003

One answer to prevent a crime

Just get involved

Tim Wilson says his neighborhood is too uncivilized for most people. The day I met him he was looking for a job so he can move. He wants out of his tiny one-bedroom apartment in a grimy gray building across from the Free Store on Corwine Street, a street shorter than the life expectancy of the crackheads who hang out in the alley below his window like stray cats.

"I just ain't got the finances to move out," he says. "It's prostitution 24-7. Drug dealing. Most of the prostitution is involved with crack dealing."

But while he's trying to move out, Wilson, 37, has already improved his Over-the-Rhine neighborhood just by living there.

At about 9:15 p.m. on Oct. 19, he was watching TV when he heard loud bangs. "There were two shots. Then about two seconds later, another shot. There was a white guy running toward Walnut Street and a black guy who had been shot, running toward the Free Store, holding his stomach.''

The man with the gun pointed it at the wounded man "about five feet away, point blank.'' So Wilson stuck his head out the window and yelled, "Hey, hey, please don't do it, don't shoot, don't kill, don't do it.''

The man with the gun looked up at him, then ran, Wilson said.

He thought of the risk of getting involved but, "I know for a fact he was going to blow this guy away.''

Details of the crime are as tangled as the winding alleys of Over-the-Rhine. But police said they believe it was a robbery that went wrong when the intended victim pulled a gun and began shooting.

Police made an arrest in the shooting. And the shooting victim may be charged with attempted robbery, a police spokesman said.

But this time the crime is less important than what did not happen. One more killing on the street may have been stopped. And the reason can be traced to a church in Fairfield and the man who picks up Tim Wilson every Sunday morning to take him to Valley Chapel, 20-something miles and a universe away from Corwine.

Don Sanders of Fairfield met Wilson through his job as a workers' comp consultant. At the time, Wilson's lights were turned off and he had no food. "It just got to me,'' Sanders said. "I've been there. I can identify with that.''

So he told Wilson, "You need to be around people that care about you - a church environment.'' Wilson said he wanted to grow in his faith, and Sanders said his church in Fairfield was just the place. They've been attending together for months. And Sanders says he's the one who feels blessed.

"It really changes a lot of my understanding of what people who live in the inner city have to cope with. It grows you to help someone else.''

Wilson said "being around good people'' has changed him, too. He says what happened that night "was orchestrated by the Lord.

"Normally, I wouldn't even be concerned, I would just mind my own business. But I just felt so sorry for the whole situation, I was just compelled from within to say something.''

What we don't know about each other in this city could fill a library shelf from Fairfield to Over-the-Rhine.

But all of it fits into three words learned by two men who got involved:

Love your neighbor.


E-mail or call 768-8301.

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