Dayton Victim Was An Intern Who Had Accepted A Full-Time Job Days Before Being Killed

Aug 9, 2019
Originally published on August 10, 2019 4:34 am

Karen Wonders was out of town last Sunday when she received a news alert on her phone of a mass shooting in Dayton, Ohio. She operates the Maple Tree Cancer Alliance, which provides exercise training to cancer patients and is based there.

"Soon after that I got a phone call from one of our trainers," Wonders said. "And I knew when she was calling that something bad had happened."

Four of her employees were in the Oregon entertainment district close to where a gunman unleashed more than 40 rounds of bullets in just 32 seconds, killing nine people and leaving two dozen others injured.

The violence interrupted a celebration. Nick Cumer, an intern at the alliance, had just accepted a full-time job. He and his colleagues went for a night out on the town to welcome him.

"It wasn't until the end of the conversation that she said, 'I just can't believe that Nick is dead,'" Wonders said, recalling her phone call with a female trainer. "And I didn't have the words, the ability to process that."

Then Wonders heard from an employee who had been out with Cumer that night. She learned that two others who were out with him had also sustained bullet wounds.

"They were both shot first and Nick's instinct was to pull them together and shield them from any further gun fire and from what I heard he was fatally shot while doing that and probably saved their lives," she said.

Wonders said 25-year-old Cumer wanted to devote his life to helping those battling cancer.

And even though it could be tough work, Cumer always kept a sunny disposition.

"We're opening a new office here in a couple weeks, and when we were looking at, 'who do we want to hire to fill this roll of running this new office?' Nick was top of our list," Wonders said.

Nicholas Cumer, 25, is one of the victims of the Dayton shooting that left nine dead. Days before the rampage, Cumer had accepted a full-time job at a nonprofit that works with cancer patients.
Courtesy of Maple Tree Cancer Alliance

Cumer's family declined to be interviewed but issued a statement saying the loss has left them heartbroken.

So are the two dozen employees at Maple Tree Cancer Alliance, where his colleagues say his spirit will never be forgotten.

"He was very outgoing, very funny. He had a smile that would light up the room. When he walked into a room, people took notice," Wonders said.

She shut down the nonprofit for the week and held counseling sessions. Two employees were hospitalized. Both are now in stable condition.

"We already provide counselors for our patients who are in emotional crisis situations, and it was good because I knew who to turn to," Wonders said.

Cumer, whose funeral service is planned for Saturday, is one of nine victims of the Dayton massacre who have left survivors behind.

Earlier on Friday, Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley stopped to meet with mourners visiting the makeshift memorial with white crosses bearing the names of all of those who were killed at the bar that is the site of the shooting massacre. Whaley said some residents are grappling with survivor's guilt.

"This district is very close knit, and so the people who work here also hang out here and they know each other very well, maybe you weren't here this weekend or you left a bit earlier than you normally do," she said. "You know, there's a lot of guilt that goes along with that because maybe you survived and somebody else didn't."

Nick Cumer guides a patient of Maple Tree Council Alliance through strength training exercises.
Courtesy of Maple Tree Cancer Alliance

Whaley said the city is operating a hotline and providing counseling services provided by groups including the Red Cross.

"We'll be grieving a lot this weekend for the loss of life, and some peoples' lives are forever changed," Whaley said.

Next week, the Maple Tree Cancer Alliance opens its doors again, but Wonders said adjusting to daily life following the tragedy is going to take time.

"I think that the emotional toll of this is going to be felt for a long time," she said.

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AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

In Dayton, it will be a weekend of funerals and memorials. Nine people died in a mass shooting there last Sunday, and the survivors are trying to cope. Some of them work at the Maple Tree Cancer Alliance. Three of the nonprofit's employees were shot in the rampage. NPR's Bobby Allyn has the story.

BOBBY ALLYN, BYLINE: Karen Wonders was out of town last Sunday when she got an alert on her phone of a mass shooting in Dayton. She runs the Maple Tree Cancer Alliance, which is based here.

KAREN WONDERS: Soon after that, I got a phone call from one of our trainers. And I knew when she was calling that something bad had happened.

ALLYN: Four of her employees were in the Oregon entertainment district. It was close to where a gunman unleashed more than 40 rounds of bullets and just 32 seconds. The violence interrupted a celebration. Nick Cumer, an intern at the Alliance, had just accepted a full-time job, and his colleagues wanted to show him a good time.

WONDERS: It wasn't till the end of the conversation that she had said I just can't believe Nick has is dead. And I - like, it - it wasn't any - I just didn't even have the ability to process that.

ALLYN: Then Wonders heard from an employee who had been out with Cumer that night and told her the other two had been shot.

WONDERS: They were both shot first. And Nick's instinct was to pull them together and to shield them from any further gunfire. And from what I heard, he was fatally shot while doing that and probably saved their lives.

ALLYN: Wonder says 25-year-old Cumer wanted to dedicate his life to helping those battling cancer. The Alliance provides exercise training to patients undergoing treatment. And even though it could be tough work, Cumer always had a sunny disposition.

WONDERS: We're opening a new office here in a couple of weeks, and when we are looking at who do we want to hire to fill this role of running this new office, Nick was top of our list.

ALLYN: Cumer's family declined to be interviewed but issued a statement saying the loss has left them heartbroken. So are the folks at Maple Tree Cancer Alliance, where employees say his spirit will not be forgotten.

WONDERS: He was very outgoing, very funny. He had a smile that would light up the room. When he came into the room, people took notice.

ALLYN: Wonders shut down the nonprofit for the week and held counselling sessions. Two employees were hospitalized. Both are now in stable condition.

WONDERS: We already provide counsellors for our patients who are in emotional crisis situations, and so it was good because I knew exactly who to turn to.

ALLYN: Cumer is 1 of 9 victims of the Dayton massacre who have left survivors behind. A fund has been established for the families of the victims. And Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley says the city is operating a hotline and providing counselling services.

NAN WHALEY: You know, we'll be grieving a lot this weekend for those lost of life. And some people's lives are forever changed.

ALLYN: Earlier today, Whaley stopped to chat with mourners visiting the makeshift memorial at the bar where the shooting happened. She said some residents are grappling with survivor's guilt.

WHALEY: This district is very close-knit. And so the people that work here also hang out here. And they know each other very well. And so maybe you weren't here this weekend or you left a bit earlier than you normally do, you know, there's a lot of guilt that goes with that because you've survived and someone else didn't.

ALLYN: She says the city is trying to move forward. Cumer's funeral service is planned for Saturday. Next week, the Maple Tree Cancer Alliance opens its doors again.

Bobby Allyn, NPR News, Dayton. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.