Cathie Rowand | The Journal Gazette Fort Wayne police search for guns after a police-action shooting that injured a teen in the area of Smith and McKee streets Tuesday afternoon. Late Monday and early Tuesday, two gun attacks killed one person and injured two.
Wednesday, June 22, 2016 11:12 am
Deadly surge of violence
Jeff Wiehe and Frank Gray | The Journal Gazette
It began with someone shooting a 15-year-old boy multiple times, leaving him for dead last week in a southeast-side alley under a hot summer sun.
Now, just days later, another teenager is dead and three others are in hospitals suffering from gunshot wounds – one at the hands of Fort Wayne police – in a spate of violence that investigators say might be interconnected through people claiming to be gang members.
The violence led city officials to release a statement calling for the community to unite while activists like Rev. Carlton Lynch took to Facebook and called for not a meeting but "a movement" against the senseless killings.
"We can’t come and attack people but rather the problem," Lynch posted on his Facebook page, inviting anyone – pastors, police, politicians, concerned citizens – to New Beginnings Church, 4119 S. Lafayette St., for a 7 p.m. rally Sunday.
Other activists were just as heated as news of the killings and shootings began to spread online, calling for more than just words to end the violence.
"The meetings, the vigils, the social media posts, that (expletive) ain’t doing no good," said Roderick Parker, a former gang member who now does work for the Urban League. "It’s going to take the people to save the people."
When Tuesday began, police were already looking into the shooting of two teens who were found at separate places the day before, suffering from gunshot wounds. Those teens, both 15, were both in a vehicle when someone inside another vehicle fired shots at them at about 5 p.m. Monday, causing them to scamper in different directions.
One teen was found in the 4700 block of Holton Avenue; the other in the 3500 block of Weisser Park Avenue. One was taken to a hospital in serious but stable condition; the other was taken to the hospital in stable condition, police said. According to police, no motive was given.
Not 12 hours later, at 4:20 a.m. Tuesday, police were called to the 5200 block of Lillie Street where gunshots were heard by residents. A 14-year-old boy was found in the middle of the street suffering from at least one gunshot wound.
Taken to a hospital in critical condition, he later died. The Allen County coroner's office today said the teen has been identified as Nicholaus D. Scroggins II. He is the county's 15th homicide victim.
Later Tuesday afternoon, at 1:30 p.m., officers were again called to the southeast side after a police-action shooting left another teen in serious but stable condition.
According to investigators, a member of the department’s violent crime unit was conducting surveillance in the area of Smith and McKee streets because it was believed individuals involved in the recent flurry of violence could be found in the neighborhood. The officer was in an unmarked cruiser but was wearing a police vest.
Officer Mike Joyner, police spokesman, said three people apparently recognized him as a police officer and approached his car. The officer got out of the car and realized at least one of the individuals was carrying a gun. The officer ordered the three to the ground but they refused, and shots were fired.
One person, who has not been identified by name but was called a teen by police, was shot in an alley off McKee Street, between Smith and Gay streets. The other two people fled.
Police recovered one handgun and cordoned off an area at least a couple blocks long and were using police dogs and other officers to search for other firearms. Police are also interviewing witnesses, Joyner said.
The officer involved in the shooting has been placed on administrative leave, which is normal practice, and the Indiana State Police will be conducting an independent investigation.
‘Calling them out’
Tuesday’s shootings took place just blocks from the home of Roderick Parker’s parents, and the ex-gang member said the kids who are committing the crimes the community is facing need to be reprogrammed.
Parker’s days on the street go back to the 1980s, the height of the crack epidemic, but he said the drugs today – synthetic weed and pills – are giving the street a different landscape from back then.
"I don’t think these kids know what they’re doing is wrong," said Parker, who spent time in prison. "These little kids have no souls."
These days, Parker is a senior advocate counselor for the Fort Wayne Urban League’s Urban Youth Empowerment Program, which is designed to provide work in volunteer form for youths 14 to 24.
The goal is to teach these youths job skills while also connecting them to businesses that might also offer such jobs.
Tuesday night, while still hearing about the news of the shootings throughout the city, Parker was planning to meet with a friend to craft a grant request for more such opportunities.
"Do me one favor," he said. "Tell the men of Fort Wayne, the men of the inner city, I am calling them out. If they want to try to do something, all they have to do is get with me.
"And I’m calling out the city, the government and the media. If we want to save Fort Wayne, we’ve got to do it."
And while police try to connect the dots as to the motives behind the violence, whoever pulled a gun on 15-year-old John Bennett Jr. in an alley off Baxter Street last week, killing him, has still not been arrested.
Bennett had previously lost his mother and two sisters, ages 4 and 5, in a 2008 accidental fire at a Bowser Avenue home when he was in first grade. His family wrote on a popular fundraising website that he dreamed of attending Duke University and becoming a brain surgeon one day.
All those dreams, cut short.