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 man who gained notoriety for firing upon a fellow student in a crowded Peoria high school hallway – then had his prison term for the crime significantly reduced on appeal – has been arrested in connection with a recent wave of gun violence.
Dione Alexander, 21, with a last known address of 921 S. Folkers Ave., turned himself in to police Wednesday. He was questioned and arrested in connection to shootings June 16 at 1916 W. Marquette Ave. and Sunday at 1204 W. Millman St. He was booked on charges of attempted murder, aggravated battery with a firearm, aggravated discharge of a firearm, armed violence and unlawful use of a weapon by a felon in each case.
Police also have made three other arrests – Dietrich J. Richardson II, 22, of 217 S. Western Ave.; Tristan L. Shelton, 19, of 2817 W. Marquette Ave.; and an unidentified juvenile – related to two weekend shootings.
Deandte M. Lewis, 19, of 510 W. McClure Ave. additionally was arrested Saturday for allegedly shooting Darian T. Johnson in the buttock June 16 in the 2800 block of West Wiswall Street. Lewis was released from Peoria County Jail on Monday with a notice to appear in court, though it is unclear what charges he will face.
Alexander was a 15-year-old freshman at Woodruff High School in January 2005 when he opened fire on a boy with whom he had been feuding. No one was injured, but the school and neighborhood were locked down for hours and increased school security measures followed the incident.
The intended target, Omar Porter, also has made headlines in the years since the incident for gun and drug crimes for which he has repeatedly been sent to prison.
Peoria County Judge James Shadid sentenced Alexander to 24 years in prison after he was convicted of the Woodruff shooting in 2006, but that term was later overturned by the Third District Appellate Court in Ottawa. When the case returned to Shadid’s courtroom for a new sentence, he again imposed the 24-year term.
The identical sentence prompted the appellate judges to take the rare step of imposing a new, vastly reduced term of six years for Alexander because the judges insisted Shadid had not properly considered the shooter’s troubled childhood and put too much emphasis on the location of the shooting, at a school.
Judges Mary K. O’Brien and Mary McDade agreed in the 2-1 decision that the reduced term was appropriate, while Judge William Holdridge dissented. By the time that decision was handed down, it essentially amounted to an order for early release, and Alexander was paroled in July 2009.
Police now believe he was involved in a shooting about 3:10 p.m. June 16 at the Marquette Street address. A man was shot in the lower calf as he sat outside his house.
He is also suspected in the shootings at a South Peoria house party early Sunday. Authorities were called to 1204 W. Millman St. about 12:15 a.m. after shots were fired from a vehicle – possibly parked on Butler Street behind the Millman address – into a group of about 50 or 60 teenagers. When police arrived, no one claimed to have been shot.
But a second call of shots fired came in about 2 a.m. at 2129 W. Wiswall St., and police found six people there with gunshot wounds. Two of the victims apparently were shot during the first incident and went to the Wiswall Street location. None of the victims – aged 16 to 19 – was seriously injured.
Peoria police issued a notice for officers to arrest Alexander in connection with the shooting on Millman Street late Tuesday, and he was nearly apprehended in Peoria Heights within a matter of hours but escaped.
A Peoria Heights police officer spotted Alexander walking from 804 E. Paris Ave. with 19-year-old resident Jacqueline Bullins to a vehicle parked outside the home just after 12 a.m. Wednesday. The officer attempted to apprehend Alexander, but he fled on foot and escaped.
Officers took the driver of the vehicle, Shelton, into custody and found several small packages of marijuana in his pocket. On the passenger seat of the car was a loaded handgun, which police also seized.
Shelton’s connection to the shooting on Millman Street on Sunday is unclear, but he was booked on a charge of attempted murder for that incident. Charges related to the incident during which he was apprehended in Peoria Heights include armed violence, aggravated unlawful use of a weapon, possession of a firearm without a valid firearm owner’s identification card, possession of a firearm projectile, possession of 10 to 30 grams of marijuana and possession of 10 to 30 grams of marijuana with intent to deliver.
Shelton was convicted in 2008 of possession of between 30 and 500 grams of marijuana with intent to deliver and sentenced to 30 months in prison. Prior to that, he had served stints in juvenile prison on stolen vehicle and weapons charges. According to the Department of Corrections website, he was not on parole at the time of the alleged shootings.
The second arrest related to the Sunday shootings occurred in South Peoria on Tuesday and appears unrelated to the incident in Peoria Heights. Richardson was taken into custody near his home after an armed robbery about 4:40 p.m. in the parking lot of JJ Fish and Chicken, 913 S. Western Ave.
A customer was robbed at gunpoint of his wallet and cell phone, and police took Richardson into custody while investigating that crime, though he is not suspected of participating in the robbery.
Richardson was booked on charges of six counts of attempted murder, aggravated discharge of a firearm in an occupied vehicle, felon in possession of a weapon and obstructing justice. The charges are connected to both Sunday shootings. He was convicted of aggravated unlawful use of a weapon in August 2008 and sentenced to two years of probation and 30 days in jail. The probation was scheduled to lapse in less than two months.
Police used pepper balls to disperse a large July 4 brawl in Taft Homes.
According to a police report, officers responded to the large field in the center of the complex about 11 p.m. Saturday. About 300 people had congregated, with large groups of those people fighting.
Police fired five pepper balls and the crowd dispersed, the report said. Police said no one was injured and no arrests were made.
In the Summer of 2008, four of these giant Nigger riots broke out. Like always the media, the police, and the politician’s basically black the entire incident out. The HOI fair is coming up soon, and I would not be surprised if a riot doesn’t break out there like one did in 2008. These are the savage animals that are murdering, raping, shooting, stealing, and committing the majority of the crime in Peoria. It is these savage Nigger beasts that make the streets unsafe to walk on at night. It’s not white folk. It’s only going to continue to get worse. The Illinois National Socialist Front knows the score, and we know the solution. In the video below last year, when some of the INSF members were affiliated with the now defunct ANSWP, we took a stand against the nigger crime as you can see in the video below. We are not afraid to speak the truth, and white man you shouldn’t be either. Join us today, and begin the struggle for your race and nation.
While police were processing the scene of an officer-involved shooting, someone fired at the officers.
About 2:15 a.m. Monday, as police were processing the scene where Demarcus C. Riddle, 31, of 1710 Laramie St. was shot by an officer, they were shot at several times by an unknown person.
None of the officers were struck. Shell casings were recovered, but no one saw the shooter, Lt. Vince Wieland said Tuesday.
Riddle still was listed in critical condition Tuesday night.
Riddle was shot by officer Jacob C. Faw, 33, about 1 a.m. Monday after Riddle allegedly pointed a gun at the officer near 935 S. Greenlawn Ave.
Police arrived at 935 Greenlawn for the original call about 1 a.m. Monday after receiving a report of a man armed with a gun.
Upon arrival, witnesses pointed out the suspect, later identified as Riddle, to police. Riddle then fled the scene. Faw followed on foot.
Once the two reached the back of the house, Riddle turned his gun on Faw, which led to Faw firing one shot into Riddle’s torso, according to police. Police sources said the bullet hit Riddle’s spine and kidney.
Immediately after the shooting, Riddle was transported to OSF Saint Francis Medical Center, where he underwent surgery.
Although he still was listed in critical condition Tuesday, Wieland said his condition had improved.
Riddle had not been arrested or charged by Tuesday, but Wieland said he would be arrested, likely on several charges.
State’s Attorney Kevin Lyons said he could not comment on the shooting, as his office hadn’t received written reports from the police.
Faw remains on paid critical incident leave, which is the department’s policy after any stressful or deadly situation, until further notice, Wieland said. Faw is a four-year veteran of the Police Department. He also served on the Peoria Heights Police Department for nearly five years before that.
Riddle also was arrested in January 2004 for possessing between 2.5 and 10 grams of marijuana with intent to deliver, according to Journal Star archives.
The last officer-involved shooting was April 22, after Shalimar K. Berry shot a carjacking victim in the knee and turned the gun on police. Officers fired three shots at Berry but did not hit her.
The last fatal officer-involved shooting was in November of last year. In that incident, Demetric Mobley fired several shots at a squad car while the officer was on patrol in the Trewyn Park area. Mobley shot at other officers arriving on the scene several times, which led police to shoot at Mobley three times, hitting him twice and killing him.
A 13-year-old boy was indicted Tuesday by a Peoria County grand jury for allegedly robbing a South Side Bank branch last month at gunpoint.
Deonte Moore of 2815 W. Starr St. faces a single count of armed robbery for the April 13 heist at the bank’s 2119 SW Adams St. branch. Within 30 minutes, the boy was found in a garage behind a house in the 900 block of South Louisa Street and arrested.
His clothes had been splattered with ink from a dye pack placed in a bag of money taken from the bank.
He remained in the Peoria County Juvenile Detention Center on $300,000 bond.
State law allows a juvenile to be tried as an adult if he or she is older than 13 and a judge finds “it is not in the best interest of the public” for the youth to remain in the juvenile courts.
This means a sentence of at least 21 years and possibly up to 45 years in prison, given that a handgun was used, if the youth is convicted. Staying in the juvenile system would have sealed the case to the public, and any imprisonment would have ended at Moore’s 21st birthday.
His arraignment is scheduled for Thursday.
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 judge on Monday will decide whether a Peoria man charged with rape will be able to stand trial in another county.
Kevin Lowe, an attorney representing Monterius Hinkle, said Thursday he believed his client wouldn’t be able to receive a fair trial based on the publicity of his arrest and subsequent appearances in court.
Hinkle, 21, pleaded guilty and was sentenced to 26 years in prison in November for raping a 16-year-old girl after he grabbed her and dragged her through an alley, a yard and into his home in the 2800 block of West Malone Street in broad daylight.
While that case is now being appealed, Hinkle faces two other pending rape cases – one of which Lowe said he is attempting to have moved.
Hinkle’s cases also became a political football in last year’s campaign for the office of Peoria County state’s attorney.
Hinkle faces a combined 60 years in prison if convicted in the two cases, which involve alleged assaults in August and June 2007.