Reward offered for information in death of community activist

Staff file photo / Ed Runyan
Community activist William “Shimmie” Miller, right, speaks in April 2022 at the kickoff event for the 2022 season of the Respect Basketball League at the Youngstown Central YMCA. Miller, 49, was shot and killed on Steel Street near Salt Springs Road on the West Side.

YOUNGSTOWN — Crime Stoppers of the Mahoning Valley is offering a $5,000 reward for information that leads to the arrest and indictment of anyone responsible for the June 12 shooting death of community activist William “Shimmie” Miller.

Miller, 49, was shot and killed on Steel Street near Salt Springs Road on the West Side, according to Crime Stoppers.

“Crime Stoppers is asking that the community which Shimmie endeavored to improve now assist law enforcement in helping solve his murder,” the organization’s news release states. Tips can be left anonymously.

“Shimmie strived to make a positive impact on the community, especially youth, and steer people away from a life of violence,” the release states. “Now Crime Stoppers of the Mahoning Valley is imploring any with information on Shimmie’s death to call Crime Stoppers at 330-746-2583. “Crime Stoppers is offering a reward of up to $5,000.”

Among Miller’s community projects was as an organizer of the Respect Basketball League of Youngstown, which provides basketball, job training, skills training and conflict resolution to participants at the Youngstown Central YMCA. About 200 men and women participated in 2022 when Miller was the head of the training aspects of the program.

During the April kickoff of the league for 2022, Miller said games like basketball provide an opportunity for young men and women to get to know and respect people.

“When we see the violence in our city, one of the things (we know) is it’s easy to hurt someone you don’t know. Through sports, not just basketball, you can build connections and friendships that statistics say will reduce violence.

“‘I’m not likely to hurt someone I know. I’m not likely to hurt someone I played basketball or football with, that I’ve formed a connection with. So that is ultimately the goal of this basketball league.”

When The Vindicator returned to see games being played and interviewed Miller toward the end of the Respect League season in June 2022, he could be heard telling the participants, “I don’t want to see you on the street killing each other. I don’t want you in the penitentiary. I appreciate the way you have handled yourself so far.”

Miller told The Vindicator that day “Overall, I think it was a success personally because my goal was to try to bring resources to the young people where they may have not otherwise had, possibly getting them jobs, which we’ve succeeded in getting a couple of them jobs and just giving them some life skills and some different ways of looking at things.”

He said when you look at violence that has taken place in Youngstown, “Just being able to have them in a space where you can pour positivity into them and let them know they have different options for me was a win. Basketball is secondary. You can pick up a game of basketball anywhere. I think we did what we set out to do.”

At the kickoff event that April, Youngstown Mayor Jamael Tito Brown said, “It’s not just about the athletics, though. It’s about the opportunity, the camaraderie.” He said a great thing about playing sports is that a person can show up to a place where he does not know people and leave with a new friend or two.

“When I get there, I don’t know the kid. Now we’re friends. That’s how I grew up. And I think this is the same thing we’re trying to move forward with the Respect League,” Brown said.

D’Aundray Brown, now Youngstown Central YMCA executive director, said in 2022 that the league was “a great opportunity for young people to get to know some high-quality mentors.”I know how much mentors and people like this affected my life,” he said. D’Aundray Brown was sports and recreation director at the YMCA at the time.

He played the 2012-2013 season with the Cleveland Charge of the NBA G League following four years as a four-year full-scholarship starter on the Cleveland State University basketball team, according to the YMCA of Youngstown website.

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