Days after Plain Dealer ''outing''; CHL-holder Bill Singleton is dead
Less than a week after the Cleveland Plain Dealer published Bill Singleton's name among a list of people who have chosen to obtain a license to bear arms for self-defense, Mr. Singleton is dead.
When three robbers came to Singleton's business Tuesday morning - they allegedly shot before Singleton had time to react to their demands.
In an exchange of gunfire, Singleton and a 17-year-old assailant were shot in the parking lot outside the United Check Cashing store on Lake Shore Boulevard near East 156th Street. Both later died at Huron Hospital.
“As I was outside I had seen a person stumbling,” Perry Roberts said. “He had his pistol in his hand and he was saying ‘somebody help me, somebody help me’ and he fell down on the ground.”
Cleveland police said Singleton was shot once in the chest, and he shot 17-year-old Rhyan Ikner once in the head. The two accomplices that witnesses saw with Ikner have not been found, said police Lt. Wayne Drummond. It was unclear Tuesday whether Singleton was shot by Ikner or one of the other robbers, Drummond said.
Attacker Had Criminal Past
Ikner was arrested in March on aggravated robbery charges after police said he held up two men with a handgun.
The victims failed to appear in court for trial, and the charges were dropped on June 17. Ikner was released that day from the Cuyahoga County Jail.
Ikner also was found delinquent six times in Juvenile Court since 2001 on charges of drug possession, drug trafficking and assault, court records show.
Victim Was Caring, Respected Citizen
Friends described Singleton, 59, of Solon, as a kind man who was active in the neighborhood merchants association, and who sought to help lift up the nascent retail district surrounding his business, which opened last year.
"He treated everybody so decently," said Ward 11 City Councilman Mike Polensek, who was supposed to meet Singleton on Thursday to talk about the neighborhood.
"[He was a] good man who cared about his family, who cared about his neighborhood [and] made an investment in here," Councilman Mike Polensek said. "Here's another, decent black businessman, an African-American businessman gunned down, for what, because he made an investment in our city. We are being preyed upon by predators and we have got to send a message to the predators that it's over. You can't continue to do this."
It is not yet known Polensek has a history if support for the right of citizens to bear arms for self-defense.
The Need to Bear Arms For Self-Defense
But Singleton also worried that his business would attract thieves. He said he was robbed at least twice, and he was planning to buy surveillance cameras to mount outside the store, said Brian Friedman, head of the Northeast Shores Development Corp.
Records show Singleton received a permit to carry a concealed weapon.
"He was scared," Friedman said. "He had a sneaking suspicion this would happen."
Ray Beverly, who manages the video store across the street, says he could have easily been killed like Singleton because he was just robbed at gunpoint Monday afternoon.
"He took me into the back room, wanted to know where the safe was, cracked me with his gun, broke my fillings," said Beverly. "He took me back to the adult room and told me to stay in there ... that if I came out, he was going to shoot me."
"It became a war zone in two days," said Beverly.
People in the neighborhood are scared and angry.
"It's not safe for any color, any race. It's not safe for nobody any more," said area resident Carolyn Johnson. "I got robbed on East 156th myself."
This isn't the first time Singleton's life was in danger. One morning in June, Bill Singleton was opening his Collinwood check-cashing store when he had to fend off a would-be robber in a skeleton mask. Though the man had a gun, Singleton managed to hold the door shut and lock it before calling police.
Questions Which Deserve Answers
It is not yet known if the Cleveland Plain Dealer's actions even remotely played into this tragedy. But the harsh reality of the situation begs the question:
Why did editor Doug Clifton act to put people like Bill Singleton at so much risk by revealing to potential attackers that they are armed, and why do they promise to continue to do so?
Why did Doug Clifton decide that these innocent, law-abiding citizens, desperate to protect themselves from violent criminals that no gun control law or background check can stop, are the ones needing to be treated like persons of suspicion?
Initial accounts say the robbers shot first, ambush-style. Did they know Singleton was armed? Did Bill Singleton die upon Doug Clifton's altar of open records? We may never know.
If they're really interested in public safety, why doesn't the Plain Dealer spend its precious page space printing names of persons like these attackers, with violent criminal histories?
The questions above may yield answers with time. But this one can never be answered: How many other would-be victims of Rhyan Ikner will live out their lives because of the heroic actions of Bill Singleton?
One Year Ago This Week: TONY GORDON DIED TRYING TO FOLLOW OSHP CAPT. JOHN BORN'S ADVICE
Click on the "Read More..." link below to read a tasteless letter to the editor from gun ban extremist Toby Hoover supporting the Plain Dealers' actions.
August 3, 2004
Cleveland Plain Dealer
Bravo to The Plain Dealer. It is not easy making a decision that will provoke gun owners.
The publishing of the names of those who have been given permits to carry concealed weapons in nine counties in Northeast Ohio was a noble and responsible community action. Ohio legislators passed the bill this year giving an extra privilege to gun owners to be able to carry their loaded weapons in public space. That put each of us at an unwanted additional risk. The legislators did not provide a way for us to inform ourselves about those we feel put us at that risk. They allowed for the secret carrying of guns and kept the identities of those doing so secret as well.
Any privilege for a few Ohio citizens that affects the entire population should be public record. The gun carriers are not living in isolation. We have a right to know who they are so we can make informed choices. Thanks to The Plain Dealer for providing the service to all of us when the government refused.