A pair of shootings overnight Wednesday brought to two dozen the number of victims in the city in the last two weeks – a figure that elevates the amount of recent gun violence to a possibly unprecedented level.
The tally, compiled by the Journal Star and confirmed by the Peoria Police Department, includes the public suicide of Bernell Alexander last week in South Peoria, but not the slaying of his ex-wife in Creve Coeur just minutes before he took his own life.
The most recent victims included a man who was shot in the shoulder at 10:45 p.m. Wednesday in the 3400 block of Sunburst Lane in the Lexington Hills apartments and a man with a gunshot wound to the neck who was taken by private vehicle to OSF Saint Francis Medical Center at 3:13 a.m. Thursday. The second victim told police he was shot while he was a passenger in a vehicle driving through Harrison Homes.
The second shooting marked the 24th victim of gunfire since June 16, when a pair of afternoon shootings kicked off a 12-hour spree of violence that resulted in one fatality and five other people being wounded, including two children who were sleeping on the floor of their North Valley home.
Just a few days later, six people – all teens between the ages of 16 and 19 – were shot during two incidents less than a couple of hours apart.
Several days with multiple shootings and the city’s 15th and most recent homicide have since transpired, leading Lt. Vince Wieland of the Police Department’s Criminal Investigations Division to label the period the worst in terms of local gun violence in decades.
“I haven’t seen two weeks like this in my 23 years,” Wieland said Thursday. “I can’t remember two weeks that have been this packed with such a number of violent acts.”
Compared to last year, however, the number of shootings so far this year does not appear to be abnormally high. Through June 22, the city had recorded 58 shootings, compared to 45 over the same time period last year.
“When we’re looking back to June 22, there isn’t that much of an increase, it’s just how it’s coming – it’s coming in bunches,” Wieland said. “It’s getting everyone’s attention because there’s been so many so quickly.”
Several of the shootings appear to be connected and gang-related, and the police have responded in part by temporarily reassigning an officer to a gang intelligence position that was cut at the beginning of the year to ease a $14.5 million citywide deficit.
Wieland called that position critical for investigations of shootings and a better way for the police to keep tabs on what’s happening on the streets. So far, the gang violence appears to have been generated by people and groups familiar to investigators, though some ground was lost when the gang intelligence position was vacant.
“We did lose some vital information that we were tracking,” Wieland said.
Though the recent spike in gun violence has caught the attention of authorities and onlookers for its unusual frequency, it remains, to a certain extent, part of a pattern that repeats every year.
Elaine Frye, executive director of emergency medical services at OSF Saint Francis Medical Center, acknowledges the unusually large cluster of shootings in the last two weeks but also notes that more victims of violence tend to visit the level-one trauma center as temperatures rise.
“There is a seasonality to it – when the weather is nicer, more people are outside and roaming,” she said. “We see it every year. When the weather breaks, we see more stabbings, shootings and violence.”
The recent level of violence, she said, has not affected emergency operations at the hospital
A Peoria County grand jury on Tuesday indicted a South Peoria man for allegedly shooting another man in the head during a feud between their families last month.
Tyrone T. Hopkins, 32, of 1529 S. Faraday St. faces two counts of first-degree murder and one count of possession of a weapon by a felon in connection with the shooting of Lonnie Williams, who died March 30.
Williams, 27, of Peoria was attempting to stop a fight between members of his family and those of Hopkins in the street outside 2113 W. Starr St. when he was shot, allegedly by Hopkins.
A friend of Williams, John Thomas, was shot once in the chest and also suffered a grazing shot to the neck. His injuries were not life-threatening.
Hopkins remains in custody at the Peoria County Jail on $1.5 million bond. He is to be arraigned Thursday before Circuit Judge Michael Brandt.
A Pekin man walking in a South Peoria neighborhood Thursday evening was robbed of his coat and $5 in cash at gunpoint.
The 35-year-old victim was walking in the 2900 block of West Nevada Street at about 5:40 p.m. when two men reportedly approached him and asked him if he wanted to buy drugs.
He refused the drugs, and the men demanded he give them his coat, according to police reports. When he told them no, one reportedly pulled a gun and again demanded the victim’s coat and money.
He gave the men $5 in cash and his coat before they each punched him seven or eight times and discussed which one was going to kill him, he told police. The man eventually broke free and ran. He was later treated for minor injuries at Pekin Hospital.
The Niggers are even opening random fire on cops. Still the city will not acknowledge that we have a black gang problem terrorizing decent folks.
The tire of a Peoria police car was shot early Saturday in South Peoria.
A patrol officer was driving westbound on West Montana Street near its intersection with South Idaho Street about 12:40 a.m. when he heard several gunshots coming from an unknown direction and unknown source, according to police reports.
One tire on the squad car was flat from bullets penetrating it. The officer was not injured. The shooter was never found.
A 19-year-old man was arrested Sunday morning and booked on a charge of attempted murder in a double shooting that occurred late last month.
Darius L. Stewart of 304 E. Republic Ave. is accused of shooting Lamar Howard, 26, and Jay C. Brown, 25, both of Peoria, during an argument just before 11:30 p.m. Oct. 26 in the 1300 block of John H. Gwynn Jr. Avenue.
Stewart was arrested about 2:40 a.m. Sunday in the 700 block of East Hightower Street and booked on a charge of unlawful use of a weapon. He was later booked on the attempted murder charge, as well as aggravated battery with a weapon.
He was being held Sunday at the Peoria County Jail.
The two victims were apparently arguing with three men outside a house when Stewart allegedly pulled out a handgun and began shooting at the two men, who ran into the home. Howard was found lying on the kitchen floor suffering from three gunshot wounds to the lower body and Brown made it into a bedroom, where he was found lying between the bed and a dresser suffering from five gunshot wounds, according to reports. They were both treated for the nonlife-threatening injuries at OSF Saint Francis Medical Center.