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Police and fire

Michelle Davies | The Journal Gazette
Police probe the latest fatal shooting.

Slain 17-year-old is identified

The Journal Gazette

A white German shepherd barked furiously in its pen facing the alley behind the 900 block of Hugh Street while Fort Wayne police officers strung more yellow crime scene tape from light pole to garage.

A few yards away, the bloody body of 17-year-old Elijah O. Freeman lay crumpled in the dirt, a flat-brimmed baseball cap nearby. The identity of the teen victim was released about 2:45 p.m. Thursday by the Allen County Coroner's office.

According to police Chief Rusty York, the teen was gunned down, having been pursued down the alley by at least two suspects who fired six to seven shots at him.

"The actual shooting appears to have taken place in the alley," York said. " … But early indications show that he may have originally came from the house where he ended up in the backyard."

Witnesses said he was hit, then ran a few feet before collapsing next to the foundation of a bright blue house.

When police responded to the scene, Freeman still had a weak pulse, but he died before paramedics arrived. They pronounced him dead at the scene.

York said he believed the teen might have known the individuals who killed him, and witnesses said some kind of dispute took place before the shots were fired.

Wednesday's shooting death occurred in a southeast-side neighborhood that's fairly quiet and well-kept – not the sort of area where violence is usually a problem, York said.

"I think some of these thugs feel that they can intimidate people and do something like this and people will be too intimidated to report it. But that's not happening here," he said.

Witnesses gave a description of one of the suspects.

As detectives and crime scene investigators arrived, so did onlookers. Many stood in driveways and along the sidewalks, some talking on their cellphones, others with their arms around each other.

One couple arrived home, finding television cameras in their yard and crime scene tape stretched from their porch.

Wednesday afternoon's shooting was the latest in an outbreak of violence that has dominated local news and public discussion in recent weeks.

Since the beginning of March, Fort Wayne police have handled 8 homicides.

Last weekend, four separate shootings killed two men and left two others in critical condition.

Saturday morning, 65-year-old Robert W. Kanyuh was shot in the abdomen during what was reported as a home invasion. Kanyuh was taken to Lutheran Hospital, where he later died, police said.

On Sunday, 19-year-old Montez Antonio Brooks arrived at Parkview Hospital suffering from a gunshot wound. He died later that night, police said.

Marcus Q. Bibbs, 19, was shot Saturday afternoon while walking in the 3300 block of South Hanna Street near Weisser Park.

Marck J. Vachon, 22, was shot early Sunday in the parking lot at Early Birds Ultralounge, 4201 N. Wells St.

Police could not provide updated conditions for the two men Wednesday. Both were listed in critical condition Sunday.

As the number of homicides grows, city police continue to look for connections, York said.

"We're looking at the gang and drug connection," he said. "So many times we see a common thread in these homicides.

"Gangs, drugs and guns. That's what we're seeing."

The city has promised stepped-up police patrols, and the FBI is focusing its Safe Streets Task Force on street gang violence within the city.

York said the past few weeks have brought a greater number of tips to police and an increase in community involvement.

He looked toward the gathered onlookers.

"We've seen people with outrage," York said.

He said the southeast side of the city is particularly fed up with the violence.

"People worked hard to make their neighborhoods better," he said. "They're outraged."