FORT WAYNE – Mayor Tom Henry and Police Chief Rusty York tried to reassure a rattled community Thursday that Fort Wayne is safe, despite five gun deaths in seven days.
"This has truly been a challenging week for our city," Henry said at a news conference outside his office. "My administration and the Fort Wayne Police Department is doing everything we can to ensure Fort Wayne is as safe as it can possibly be."
Henry said nearly all of the nine criminal homicides recorded so far this year have involved gangs, drugs or domestic violence. "If you're not involved in one of those activities, you should feel safe," he said.
In addition to the nine homicides York and Henry spoke of, there have also been two people shot to death by police and one victim shot in 1980 who died of his wounds March 11.
York said that of the nine criminal homicides this year, six have been solved and police have suspects in two others. More importantly, he said, thanks to tips from the community, "we've been able to solve two very heinous murders" in two days.
Rather than fear, officials said, the community needs to unite in a determination that broad-daylight violence will not be tolerated.
"It's important for the community to rally together," Henry said. "I'm confident our city will come together and be stronger as a result."
Henry said he's already been contacted by the NAACP and the Fort Wayne Urban League asking what they can do to help. The Urban League announced Thursday it will host a series of strategic planning meetings to find ways to stem violence. The first will be 6 to 8 p.m. today at the Urban League, 2135 S. Hanna St.
"We want everyone to be part of this urgent conversation," Urban League CEO Jonathan Ray said. "Whether you're a parent, grandparent, business leader, elected official, educator or student, we all need to participate in finding solutions to this violence."
Tuesday's homicide, in which 22-year-old Gerelle Ramone Borum was shot to death as he walked near Rudisill Boulevard and Indiana Avenue, had an arrest within five minutes, thanks to numerous calls from witnesses, officials said.
Wednesday's homicide, in which police said Kenneth Knight pulled 49-year-old Jacqueline Bouvier Hardy off a Citilink bus and shot her to death in front of bus passengers and nearby schoolchildren, resulted in a citywide manhunt fueled by tips from the community. It was phone calls from residents that led police to 3018 Holton Ave., York said, where Knight held a 3-year-old boy hostage for several hours before being shot to death by police snipers. The boy was unharmed.
"We need the community's involvement, not only to solve crimes, but to prevent crimes," York said.
"If you see something, if you know something, if you hear something suspicious, step up and let the police know," Henry said. "That's how these crimes are solved."
In addition to Borum, Hardy and Knight killed Tuesday and Wednesday, Demarcus E. Adams, 23, was shot to death as he sat in a car at Abbott and McKee streets on March 14, and Mark B. Young, 25, was found shot to death in the 3400 block of Reed Street on March 15.
Southeast Quadrant Deputy Police Chief Garry Hamilton said fear of retribution should not keep people from coming forward with information.
"Contact Crime Stoppers – they don't record phone numbers, they just pass the information on to the police," Hamilton said. "And if you're really that worried about it, dial *67 before you call to block your Caller ID."
Crime Stoppers can be reached at 436-7867 or at www.crimestoppersfw.org.
Hamilton said even if tips don't result in immediate arrests, they may help police see a pattern or recognize a suspect that leads to arrests later.
"We just want you to report it," he said.