MuskogeePhoenix.com, Muskogee, OK

December 31, 2012

2012's top story: Mall shooter put away but city still shaken

Deadly attack spurs call for community action

By Wendy Burton
Phoenix Staff Writer

— For some, the conviction and sentencing of the shooter who killed a teenager at Arrowhead Mall was a form of closure.

For others, it wasn’t.

The Rev. Marlon Coleman came to Muskogee several months after the mall shooting.

“Personally, I don’t think there’s any way to have closure,” Coleman said. “I don’t think sentencing a young person gives closure — it highlights the fact there is a lot of work that still needs to be done.”

Muskogee was rocked by the April 2010 murder of Jerrod Reed, 17, at Arrowhead Mall.

The Phoenix staff voted the top story of the year was the sentencing of the mall shooter, Dondray Fowler.

Fowler was found guilty on July 20 on one count of first-degree murder. He also was found guilty of four counts of assault and battery with a deadly weapon. A fifth person wounded in the shooting declined to testify.

Fowler, 22, was sentenced Oct. 3 to life in prison with the possibility of parole on the murder charge and 30 years each to be served consecutively on the four counts of assault and battery with a deadly weapon.

He will be incarcerated for at least 140 years before he will be eligible for parole.

After Coleman arrived in Muskogee, he saw fear among the city’s residents and saw the call for help for the city’s youth.

But, he said, the city continues to need healing from the mall shooting and other gang-related crimes over the last two years.

Madison Latta, 15, read a victim impact statement at Fowler’s sentencing hearing in October. Latta, one of those who was shot, said: “This changed me for my whole life. I can’t do the things I could April 9, 2010.”

Latta, sobbing, hugged relatives outside the courtroom after the sentencing.

Muskogee County District Attorney Larry Moore said the verdict and subsequent sentencing of Fowler brought him a range of emotions — both as the DA and as a regular citizen.

“I’m very satisfied that we were able to obtain convictions and that the main person that caused this melee is imprisoned basically for the rest of his life,” Moore said. “I’m also grateful that Muskogee was blessed in a sense because though we lost one person to the senseless shooting, we didn’t lose five more who were injured.”

Moore said Fowler’s prosecution sent a message, too.

“There are some people you will never deter from doing things like this,” he said. “But there are others that may look at this and say, ‘I can’t get away with taking a gun to the mall and shooting people.’ It does send a message to the people of this county that you aren’t going to come in and shoot up our malls and our people and create a lawless society.”

Since the shooting, law enforcement, schools and community organizations have tackled gang involvement and hoped for change.

Coleman said the religious community needs to take a proactive stance as the city moves forward from the mall shooting.

“So many of these young people are in the situations they are in because they never experienced true love,” he said. “As clergy we need to make it our priority in 2013 to pursue every avenue to make sure they get the love and attention they deserve as human beings.”

Reach Wendy Burton at (918) 684-2926 or wburton@muskogeephoenix.com.