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Killer's trail grows colder
AKRON, Ohio (The Akron Beacon Journal) -- It's every parent's nightmare. A knock on the door in the early morning hours. Opening it to find the police, who tell you that your child is dead.
For one Akron family that nightmare continues.
Gary Cosey, 22, was murdered Nov. 21. He was shot in the head in front of 50 to 75 witnesses outside a bar in Zanesville. But no one is coming forward to identify the killer.
``A town that small, somebody knows something,'' said Gary's oldest brother, Oscar Cosey.
Gary Cosey's mother, Catherine, agrees, but she added: ``I can't blame them for being afraid of a killer.''
So the family has decided to try to raise $5,000 for a reward. They have $700 already, raised from a penny drive at Schumacher Academy, the elementary school Gary Cosey attended.
``Sometimes people see money and they talk,'' Catherine Cosey said.
Her daughter, Fay Cosey, has put up signs and collection boxes all around Akron. ``Someone in Zanesville knows who killed my brother.''
But the circumstances surrounding the death of Gary Cosey may make getting witnesses -- even in what should be an open-and-shut case -- a bit more complicated.
Cosey, an Akron resident, had gone to Zanesville to participate in a flag football tournament the weekend of Nov. 19. On Saturday night, he and some friends went to the Canteen, a bar commonly called the ``U-Bar.''
The nickname comes from the shape of the bar, which years ago was a U-shape, but now is more of a misshapen J. It's the kind of place where people emerge drunk at 4 o'clock in the afternoon, and the barmaid chats with the regulars all day.
It's also the kind of place where nearly every week, a fight breaks out. So says Ed Harris, who lives with his brother in a small house that looks down on the U-Bar. It was from that house that Harris called 911 to report a large street fight the night Cosey was killed.
There actually were two fights, Harris said, one in front of the U-Bar and another about 40 yards down the street in the parking lot of another -- now defunct -- bar, the Block House.
While on the phone with the dispatcher, Harris heard the shots ring out, and Gary Cosey was mortally wounded.
From his perch on the hill, two streets over, Harris couldn't see who shot Cosey. But, he said, people were standing all around, some within feet of the shooter and victim.
``They knew what went down,'' Harris said of the witnesses. ``There's no doubt in my mind.''
"Someone has to know"
Genuinely contrite on behalf of his community, Harris offered rumors that might explain why no witnesses have come forward. It could have been that gangs were involved, he said. Or that the shooter is someone that everyone is afraid of.
But someone definitely knows, Harris said. ``With all those witnesses, someone has to know who pulled the trigger, and no one is speaking up.''
Equally baffled is Randy Ritchason, the Zanesville detective who is investigating the case. Zanesville is a small town, Ritchason said, that averages about a homicide a year. Some years there are none and others maybe two or three.
The case isn't closed and won't be until they find who did it, he said. But it's definitely getting cold. Ritchason said that with such a small town, someone knows who did this shooting. But he suspects they won't know the truth until the police ``arrest the right person,'' meaning someone who has information he or she is willing to exchange for dropping or reducing charges.
Still, he's checked on leads and sympathizes with the Cosey family. Maybe a reward would help, he said, noting that a reward was used to track down the source of bomb threats that plagued the community last year.
Too many witnesses
Another problem with the Cosey killing may be that there were just too many witnesses. That leads to feelings of diminished responsibility, said Patricia Kirby, assistant professor of sociology at the College of Notre Dame in Baltimore and a former FBI profiler and homicide detective for the city of Baltimore.
As a group increases in size, each member of the group feels less responsibility, Kirby said. That goes for committing crimes as well as witnessing crimes.
``You can rationalize away any feeling of being involved the more people there are,'' she said. ``You can wash your hands of it.''
The people who witnessed the crime could be reluctant to come forward because it may implicate them in that crime or another one, Kirby said. For instance, they may have been in the crowd because they were assaulting someone or they were buying drugs, or perhaps are wanted for another crime.
Some may feel alienated
Another possibility is that the community is alienated, Kirby said. The neighborhood where Cosey was killed is predominantly black, and feelings of alienation and distrust of the police is not unusual among blacks, she said.
Blacks may feel that the police will treat the shooter unfairly and he may ``receive a totally different form of justice.''
In black areas, Kirby said, ``there is an idea of `we need to protect our own. Even though someone in our community may have done this, we can't sacrifice them up . . . ' ''
A third factor could be a fear of retaliation, Kirby said. ``If the person is a bad actor in the community, you have to worry about repercussions to your own family,'' she said.
Hope reward may work
Despite the reasons for not coming forward, some of which might be compelling, Kirby says a reward could work.
As time goes on people feel less responsibility and begin to forget about the crime. But their circumstances might change. Maybe a witness didn't need the reward in November, Kirby said, but by July it could be a significant motivator.
The Cosey family hopes a reward will help, but even if it doesn't, they won't give up. Fay Cosey said she doesn't want her brother to be just ``another statistic'' and she won't let the community of Zanesville forget. ``Someone in Zanesville murdered my brother,'' she said.
Catching the killer won't bring Gary back, his mother, Catherine, said, but it will bring her ``peace of mind.''
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