It Happened Here: Racial Tensions Explode into a Shootout in Glenville


Ever wonder where so many historical events happened around town? Or how Cleveland history helped shape the country’s larger history? Teaching Cleveland has been on a quest to uncover some hidden history gems for you – places where events took place that helped influence this unique community and beyond.

And hey – if you didn’t know about any of these, don’t kick yourself! These are places that have little to no historical information telling anyone anything about it.


The corner of Auburndale and Lakeview today (bottom) and in 1968 (top), where Cleveland police and members of the Black Nationalists of New Libya engaged in a shootout that lasted hours.

 It happened here

Racial Tensions Explode into a Shootout in Glenville

 What? A shootout between Cleveland police and an activist group results in 22 casualties

 Where? 12312 Auburndale Avenue, Glenville; corner of Beulah and East 123rd


Fifty-five years ago this month, rising racial tensions between the Cleveland police and a group led by Fred (Ahmed) Evans erupted in a gunfight that would last almost an hour and result in seven confirmed deaths – including one bystander, three members of the Black Nationalists of New Libya, and three police officers.


In the summer of 1968, just like in other cities across the country, tensions were high between local police and many in Black communities. Cleveland was no different. Just two years earlier, an uprising in Hough had produced death and destruction over the course of three days that was only quelled by the National Guard. Just three months before incidents in Hough, Martin Luther King, Jr. had been killed. While the election of Carl Stokes (the first African-American mayor of a major U.S. city) helped to reduce some of the pressure, many Black residents saw government authorities – and especially the police – as antagonistic or apathetic to the urban decay so many people experienced.


Cleveland police had long been monitoring Evans, following tips that he and his group had been stockpiling weapons. Evans experienced regular conflict with police throughout much of his life, and in 1968 he saw the country turning into a white police state. The police considered Evans a militant Black nationalist who was dangerous and trying to promote more violence.


On July 23, 1968, those tensions turned deadly. Police patrol cars had been surveilling Evan’s apartment on Auburndale for a few days, convincing Evans that a confrontation was imminent. A couple blocks away on Beulah Avenue, between E. 123rd and Lakeview, an abandoned car was being towed. Nobody knows who fired the first shot, but soon someone shot the tow truck driver, William McMillan. Although seemingly unrelated to the police presence outside Evan’s home, shots from behind bushes, from inside homes and apartments, and from behind police cruisers’ doors rang out. Today, conflicting accounts still exist about the events that evening.


In the end, the shootout precipitated four days of destruction in the Glenville neighborhood, producing more than $2.6 million in damage. Following the riots, the area became associated with violence, so that many who could leave the area did, and those who used to patronize local businesses stopped doing so – further causing more decay. Evans was convicted of first-degree murder and sentenced to death, although the sentence was commuted and he died in prison in 1978. Finally, the shootout helped to destroy Carl Stokes’ Cleveland: Now! program when it was learned that Evans had received funds from the program and had used them to purchase firearms.


Today – the area sits quietly without any signage that a major event in community-police relations took place there. And it’s safe to say that Cleveland and Northeast Ohio are still living with the legacies of that evening’s events.


For more information, check out Cleveland Historical and the Encyclopedia of Cleveland History.

Two blocks from Evans’ home, a tow truck driver was trying to remove an abandoned vehicle when he was shot at the corner of East 123rd and Beulah. The scene in 1968 (bottom) and today (top).



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