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The Journal Gazette

  • Rachel Von | The Journal Gazette Fort Wayne police investigate a death on Diplomat Drive Monday.

Tuesday, June 28, 2016 1:28 pm

Police investigate death on southeast side

Rebecca S. Green | The Journal Gazette

Police weren't saying what it was for sure.

Around 4:45 p.m. Monday, Fort Wayne officers and medics responded to a "problem unknown" at 3353 Diplomat Drive, one of a few occupied apartments in a bleak and largely vacant old complex on the city's southeast side.

It didn't matter what police were saying, though, because the activity outside, across the potholed parking lot, and in the doorways and on the sidewalks, said plenty.

Whatever it was took the life of a young man. His girlfriend came into the apartment and found him dead. 

An ambulance rolled away slowly with the body of the yet-unidentified male inside. The young woman sat in the back of a squad car, weeping. Crowds began to gather.

A middle-aged woman began to scream, turning to face the apartment guarded by a group of uniformed Fort Wayne Police officers.

"I am sick of all this violence! I am sick of all this violence!"

She yelled fury in the direction of that apartment.

"I am sick of it. Goddamn it. It don't make no sense!"

The crowd continued to grow, mostly women, many with small children in tow, babies on hips. Police officers extended the yellow crime scene tape as tempers flared, voices raised. The young woman rocked herself back and forth in the front seat of a detective's car, weeping.

"Why would they do this?" she asked the detective. "Why?"

At about 5:45 p.m., Roderick Parker from the Fort Wayne Urban League arrived. The former gang member has been a near constant presence at the various shooting scenes around south Fort Wayne in recent weeks. He works as a senior advocate counselor for the Urban League's Urban Youth Empowerment Program, designed to provide work in volunteer form for youths 14 to 24.

In the past week, two teenagers have been shot and killed and three others injured in shootings, one shot by police. Allen County has endured 16 homicides so far in 2016, six since early May.

Whether what happened in 3353 Diplomat Drive will add to that list will not likely be known until Tuesday.

Parker positioned himself directly across from the apartment door, squatting down under the crime scene tape, his shoulders shaking. He wiped tears from his eyes.

"I've been out here on the ground fighting this," he said. "This (expletive) gotta stop. We're killing away a generation. I'm begging these children to stop."

Before he could continue, a muscular teenager arrived, his green basketball shorts sagging and his face contorted with worry.

"Where he at?" the young man screamed. "Where Manuel at?"

Parker swooped over and wrapped his burly arms around him. 

"He gone."

"He's at the hospital?" the young man asked.

"No. He's gone," Parker said.

The teen struggled to stay on his feet, grief overtaking his physical abilities and he collapsed into the grass and broken glass on the side of the parking lot.

"They raised me," he cried. "They raised me."

He mentioned "Manuel" as his brother. He cried about someone named "Mookie," also no longer in his life due to violence. The young man punched a trash bin, his hand instantly swelling up. He dropped back to his knees.

Two women bandaged his hand. One looked at Parker and told him she would take him to the hospital.

Standing just outside the crime scene tape, Fort Wayne Police spokesman, Officer Michael Joyner gave a rundown on what was known at 6 p.m.

Police were waiting for a search warrant. They didn't know what killed the man. They hadn't confirmed his identity. 

Joyner said what he has said before, at shooting scene after shooting scene. He begged people to come forward with information.

"Any information is greatly beneficial," he said. "We need the community to step up, to help stop this madness."

rgreen@jg.net