Friends and family mourn ex-Barberton man gunned down on Akron bus

Bob Morehead

Herald Staff Writer

Several dozen family members and friends gathered at Lake Anna Park around sunset May 21 to mourn the loss of a man murdered a few days earlier on an Akron bus.

William A. Howell II, 21, grew up in Barberton and had moved to Cleveland when he was 19. A roofer by trade, he had recently moved to Akron and was on a bus at the Metro RTA Transit Center around 5 p.m. May 18.

“I’d heard he was going to meet his boss,” Beth Layton, Howell’s foster mother, told The Herald.

Around that time, police working the beat at the transit center heard gunshots. One pair of officers ran toward the sound of the gunfire and saw two young men fleeing, one with a gun. They chased them down and caught them across the street from the station.

Another set of officers went into the bus, crowded with passengers, and tended to Howell who had several gunshot wounds in his chest. Paramedics arrived and took him to Akron General Medical Center in critical condition.

Howell died on the operating table.

The gunman was identified as Kavon Jackson, 17. Jackson is charged with aggravated murder, carrying a concealed weapon, obstructing official business and misconduct at a public transportation system. Police say he had the gun suspected in the murder tucked into his waistband; he was taken to the Summit County Juvenile Detention Center. A second boy, also 17, was also apprehended but was determined not to be involved and was released.

Passengers on the bus told police that Howell and Jackson got into some sort of argument on the bus and Jackson pulled out the gun and shot Howell several times. No one else on the bus was harmed.

Family and friends of Howell were left devastated and the vigil at Lake Anna was thrown together in an attempt to cope.

“I don’t know,” Layton said, holding Howell’s 2-year-old daughter, Leilani. “I lost my son to violence. I’m lost. I’m numb. I’m trying to keep peace by bringing all these people here.”

The people brought together remembered Howell as a quick wit and loving father who was very protective of his family.

“I don’t know how I’m going to help Leilani,” the 2-year-old’s mother, Alyssa Cook, said.

The folks at the lake lit candles and left them in front of a big card with pictures of Howell and signed the card. Some lit and launched Chinese lanterns over the lake as the sun set.

Everyone there wanted change. Some want guns completely gone from the streets. Some, seeing what happened to Howell, want a gun for themselves.

“I hate guns, you all know that,” Cook said. “But I’m going to have to get one.”

No one wanted the status quo.

Beth Layton, William Howell’s foster mother, hold’s Howell’s 2-year-old daughter, Leilani, at the vigil at Lake Anna Park May 21.

Friends and family launch Chinese lanterns at sunset over Lake Anna to celebrate the life of William Howell II.

Friends and family light candles to celebrate the memory of William Howell II in a vigil May 21 at Lake Anna Park.


  1. amen newman on June 8, 2021 at 5:37 am

    Spot on Newman. The truth is the only sword bleeding minds….

  2. Fritz and Gloria on June 5, 2021 at 11:20 am

    “We had never met The young man, but would have loved to have done so..that great big Smile of his said it all! This is so unfair in every way possible.We read that he has a precious tiny little baby girl. Our prayers and love go out to the mother, daughter siblings, all family and friends. Upon having heard of this tragic occurrence, we were deeply saddened.
    May the good Lord bless and comfort you and yours always, during these troubling times of sorrow.”

  3. Michael Galen on May 23, 2021 at 4:08 pm

    So sorry for your loss.

  4. Newman on May 23, 2021 at 6:50 am

    Black on Black gun murders continue to be the center of the problem. Until the community and their weak leadership rise up to address the real issues and take away guns and teach lawful behavior and respect for one another or these needless killings will continue. Stand up and hold criminals accountable instead of grasping for excuses that only empower violence as the answer and ignore the root of evil that breeds this behavior.

  5. Mr. CBJ on May 22, 2021 at 7:15 pm

    I’m so sorry to hear of this tragedy for this young man. Our young people are just lost with no home training and respect for other people lives at all. My prayers is with the family as you try to deal with your loss. May God bless you and keep you.

  6. Barbara Baker(Gabe's grandma) on May 22, 2021 at 10:39 am

    Beth we’re so sorry for your loss. We are praying for you 🙏🏿🙏🏿🙏🏿
    Much love💙💙💙💙

  7. Beth Layton on May 22, 2021 at 10:25 am

    Thank you Bob for coming and talking to us and taking photos! We all came together for my son and I know that’s what he wanted! Everyone who came last night has been and still are so supportive to me and my family and to everyone else! Violence is never the answer! He was too young! Now, we live for his daughter!

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