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Police and fire

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Spate of killings tied to drugs, gangs, guns


Lance A. Murray, 30, died Sunday in an alley in the 1200 block of West Wildwood Avenue.

Algia Paul Robert Steward, 19, died Saturday evening in the street in the 800 block of East Lewis Street.

Both men died from gunshot wounds, and little information has been released about what may have led to their deaths.

According to Allen County court records, Steward was arrested in July on a misdemeanor charge of resisting law enforcement and had been sentenced to community service.

Murray had mostly minor run-ins with the law, with the exception of a felony conviction for forgery and had a warrant out for his arrest on a misdemeanor charge of marijuana possession.

The two men are the latest victims in a spate of fatal shootings that have bedeviled Fort Wayne for nearly all of 2013. With just over two months left to go, Allen County is on pace for one of the deadliest years since officials started keeping track of such things.

With 42 homicides, 1997 ranks as the county’s grimmest. But Allen County now has 38, including four police-action shootings.

Fort Wayne Police Chief Rusty York pins the violence and its deadly byproduct on a lifestyle of gangs, drugs and guns.

“We’re just seeing this time and time again,” York said. “It’s unfortunate and it’s disturbing, obviously, but we continue to work with our federal partners, we have our own gang units and neighborhood response teams. We have our own detectives working on this.”

The crimes seem to be a back-and-forth, tit-for-tat relationship between rival groups, groups that often change in makeup and membership.

“There seems to be these continuing beefs between these groups,” York said, adding the retribution is often shootings or robberies.

When civilians come forward with information about the shootings, the cases tend to get solved rather quickly, York said.

But what frequently happens is that those who survive the gun battles clam up, refusing to say anything.

“That’s the kind of stuff that leads to retribution and another shooting,” York said.

And there were more than a half-dozen other shootings around the city over the weekend, according to city police records.

Whether at random or with intent, bullet casings clattered to sidewalks or rounds pierced the walls of homes over the weekend, according to police logs:

At 1:49 a.m. Saturday, shots were fired in the area of Marcy Lane.

A 911 call came into dispatch at about 6:25 a.m. Saturday, reporting eight shots fired in the area of Monroe Street and McKinnie Avenue.

Saturday evening, four shots were heard in the area of Avondale and Oxford streets.

In an early-Sunday instance, a resident of Central Avenue reported a gunshot about 3 a.m. The resident told a dispatcher that “there is a lot of gang activity” one block over.

About the same time, shots were reported in the area of the 4600 block of Weisser Park Avenue.

A couple of hours later, a resident near the Central Avenue shooting found a bullet on his dining room floor and a hole in the wall.

Sunday, residents of Lillie Street reported hearing gunfire at 10 p.m. A 911 caller told dispatchers they heard someone in the area of their home making threats, saying they were going to “spray that bitch.”

At least two of the homicides this year will be “administratively closed” but no charges will be filed, York said. In those cases, the likely perpetrator has himself been killed in a homicide, York said.

There have been five people charged so far this year in relation to 2013 homicides. Another person, Kenneth Knight, was killed by police after he held a 3-year-old hostage hours after he killed a woman after pulling her off a city bus.