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Copley Township police release new shooting rampage details
Police say they still don't know the motive behind the killings

Alison Ritchie
Copley Township Police Chief Mike Mier said police still don't know why 51-year-old Michael Hance went on a shooting spree that killed seven people and hospitalized another.
Courtesy of Alison Ritchie
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Copley Township police are trying to piece together the events of Sunday morning’s shooting rampage that left eight men, women and children dead, including the gunman, and one hospitalized. WKSU’s M.L. Schultze reports.

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Copley Township police say they still do not know why 51-year-old Michael Hance went on the shooting spree. The shootings occurred over a period of roughly 10 minutes at four different locations in a usually quiet, suburban neighborhood west of Akron. 

Police say Hance killed Craig and Scott Dieter, the brother and 11-year-old nephew of his live-in girlfriend, Rebecca Dieter. Rebecca is the sole survivor of the shootings and she remains hospitalized and unable to speak. The 11-year-old boy was not killed in the home she and Hance shared for about eight or nine months. Police say he escaped and was chased down the street. A neighbor sheltered the boy and called 9-1-1, while hiding in the basement with him and her three children.

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But police say the gunman forced his way in to kill the boy, while letting the woman and her children leave. 

Hance chased another neighbor, Byron Johnson. He killed Byron and Byron’s mother and father, Russell and Gudrun Johnson. Hance also killed Byron’s 16-year-old daughter, Autumn, a student at Copley High School. A second 16-year-old girl was also killed, but police are withholding her name until the family has been notified. Police say they are not sure the order in which the victims were shot nor do they know the gunman’s connection to the Johnson family.

A Copley police officer and a former police officer who lives in the neighborhood responded to the calls. The officer killed Hance. 

Police says Hance had two handguns, and they don’t know who they’re registered to or if he reloaded during the spree. Copley Township Police Chief Mike Mier says police are trying to find out more about the shooter’s background. 

“The suspect has very little background,” says Mier. “I think there may have been a couple times when he’s had contact with police departments. But as far as we can determine, he has no arrest record. Like anybody, there has been some contact. But I don’t think there has been anything serious and obviously nothing of this nature. And obviously, checking data bases checking record databases in several communities can take some time, so we’re still sort of doing that.” 

Hance’s address is listed as Akron, but Mier says police believe he was living at his girlfriend’s Copley address for about nine months. Mier says police have never responded to a domestic disturbance at the residence. He adds that it’s unclear if Hance had a history of mental health problems. 

“We believe there may have been an incident in another community, where he made some statements that maybe could cause you to believe that he might have had some issues,” says Mier. “But, again, that’s something that takes us a long time to research because we’re going through databases at other agencies.”

Mier says he hopes police will discover a motive. He adds that the autopsy of the shooter will reveal if drugs or alcohol contributed. 

Only one other homicide has occurred in Copley Township, since 2001.

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