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
Police still are investigating the armed robbery of a local restaurant.
At about 8:40 p.m. Monday, two men armed with guns robbed the Spotted Cow at 718 W. Glen Ave. and escaped on foot with an undetermined amount of cash.
A description of the robbers was not available from police Monday night.
No one in the restaurant was injured. Police have not made any arrests.
For the second time in about as many weeks, masked gunmen robbed a Central Peoria gas station.
About 3:30 a.m. Tuesday, two males entered Circle K, 2416 N. University St., and demanded money from the clerk.
One of the males, armed with two guns, ordered a lone customer to lie face down on the floor while he yanked the victim’s wallet out of his pocket, reports stated. The other robber, also armed, turned his attention on the clerk, stealing an undisclosed amount of money from the cash register.
Witnesses reported seeing the men run south on University toward MacQueen Avenue after the robbery.
On Jan. 26, three men robbed the same gas station, pilfering cigarettes and taking money from the safe.
That crime, like Tuesday’s, remains unsolved and comes on the heels of more than two dozen similar robberies plaguing the city since the end of December.
Two men attempted to rob a South Peoria grocery store at gunpoint Saturday evening.
The robbers, both wearing scarves over their faces, entered North Spring Meat Market, Inc., 511 Spring St., about 7:50 p.m. and demanded money from two employees behind the counter, according to police reports.
One robber shoved one of the employees and repeatedly punched him in the face while demanding he open the register. The other robber pointed a handgun at the two employees and ordered them to get down on the ground.
The clerk who had been hit then pushed the two robbers into each other before they ran off in an unknown direction without money.
The clerk who was beat up refused medical attention, though police noted he suffered visible injuries to both his left eye and forehead.
Its just another typical day in Peoria. And still the media and new papers refuse to acknowledge that Peoria has a major Nigger problem.
A 50-year-old man was beaten and robbed Saturday evening while walking through the shuttered Harrison Homes.
The victim told police he was walking near the housing complex about 6:30 p.m., when he was approached by five men. One asked him for money, and when he replied he had none they began kicking and punching him, according to a Peoria police report.
The attackers stole his wallet, containing an undisclosed amount of money, his cell phone and his keys. One of the robbers attempted to snatch the man’s boot, but was unsuccessful.
The attack left the man, however, with a broken ankle, and he had to drag himself to a nearby bar to call for help, according to the report. The victim was treated at OSF Saint Francis Medical Center for the broken ankle and released.
He could not give a description of the young men, except that they wore “bling,” the report stated.
No arrests had been made as of Sunday night.