‘Biggest player’ in Springfield gun violence heading to prison

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The Springfield News-Sun has dug into violent crime in Springfield, including stories on an increase in murders last year and how stolen guns play a role in violence.

A man described by prosecutors as “one of the biggest players in gun violence” in Springfield will go to prison for 18 months after skipping out on his sentencing more than two months ago.

Dennis Kennedy Jr., 21, pleaded guilty to a charge of improperly handling firearms in a motor vehicle and was scheduled to be sentenced on May 21, but he didn’t show up. He was sentenced Wednesday morning in a Clark County Common Pleas Courtroom.

Kennedy treated guns like toys, Clark County Assistant Prosecutor Brian Driscoll said.

“We’ve been dealing with Mr. Kennedy for a long time,” Driscoll said. “All of those events or instances, it’s always that Mr. Kennedy has a gun.”

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>>MORE COVERAGE: Gun thefts, illegal weapons linked to Springfield violence

Kennedy faces additional prison time if convicted of several other unrelated felonies. He’s also been charged with receiving stolen property, weapons under disability, failure to appear and firing a weapon into a habitation in connection with an April shooting. Kennedy has pleaded not guilty to all of those charges.

Kennedy was arrested in September 2015 after residents reported he was driving around the city waving a gun from a car, according to police reports.

He was released from jail on his own recognizance in January, according to court records, but had bonds for separate charges in both Clark and Montgomery counties, Driscoll said.

“The only thing that we can do is again ask for those high bonds,” he said of Kennedy’s failure to appear in court for his sentencing.

Kennedy was also charged in the shooting in April of another man at the victim’s home on Race Street. Then after missing his sentencing in May, U.S. Marshals caught him July 12 hiding in an attic in Lynchburg, S.C.

He had been arrested on charges of murder in connection with the shooting death of George Walker Jr. in May 2014, but that case was dropped when a witness was shot and killed in a separate incident, prosecutors said.

“It’s important for us to get him off the street to send a message that gun violence is not going to be tolerated … The state of Ohio is going to prosecute to the fullest extent of the law to protect the citizens of Clark County,” Driscoll said.

Springfield residents are fed up with the violence as well.

“I don’t think it’s gotten any better,” Ronnie Moss said. “I don’t.”

Young people need to be taught that violence won’t fix their problems, he said.

“It starts with getting them educated about getting your mind and body healthy,” Moss said. “Let’s show them a better way, because there is a better way.”

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