CHAMPAIGN — Champaign police searched four residences in Champaign and Urbana early Wednesday to try to find people they believe responsible for acts of violence plaguing some north Champaign and Urbana neighborhoods in the last four weeks.
The searches resulted in the seizure of guns, drugs and cash and the arrests of three men and one woman,
Champaign police Sgt. Dave Griffet said since Oct. 29, Champaign and Urbana police have responded to at least seven reports of shots being fired at people or homes. None resulted in injury to humans but there has been property damage.
"This stems back to an incident on Oct. 27. Two different groups in a dispute are continuing to be involved in these shootings. Many of the people involved are not coming forward or willing to be a witness. As we have investigated, we've been gathering information and as a result, got search warrants for some of the homes of people we think are involved in these.
"We worked on building cases against them as it relates to their activities, which are primarily selling drugs and unlawfully possessing weapons," he said.
Police involved in the investigation started their work day Wednesday by serving a search warrant in the 2400 block of Prairie Green in Urbana shortly after 8 a.m.
Griffet said they recovered more than an ounce (about 45 grams) of powder cocaine, a loaded handgun, and over $5,000 in cash in the apartment of Alexis Winfrey, 20. Both she and her boyfriend, Kevin Akins, 22, were arrested.
Winfrey was arrested for possession with intent to deliver a controlled substance and permitting the unlawful use of a building. Akins was arrested for unlawful use of weapons by a felon, armed violence, and possession with intent to deliver a controlled substance.
As members of the METRO team were carrying out that search warrant, members of the Champaign police SWAT team served another warrant at an apartment in the 2400 block of West Bradley Avenue in Champaign.
"We found 5.5 grams of suspected crack cocaine, a loaded assault rifle, and a loaded .45-caliber handgun," said Griffet.
Arrested there was Wardell Dockery, 18, for unlawful use of a weapon and possession with intent to deliver a controlled substance. He was also wanted on a Vermilion County warrant for a traffic offense, Griffet said.
Police also searched a home in the 400 block of West Vine Street in Champaign, where they found cash and more than two ounces (72 grams) of cannabis packaged for sale. They arrested Lavente McWilliams Jr., 20, for possession with intent to deliver cannabis..
A search of a home in the 600 block of Breen Drive did not result in any arrests, Griffet said.
Griffet said police are continuing to investigate other people but wanted to intervene as soon as possible given what they know.
"We looked at those we had information on now. Clearly we focused on these people because we felt like they had the opportunity to become more violent and we wanted to interfere.
"So far nobody has been hit. There's been property damage but the reality of this is if we don't interfere, it's going to escalate and an innocent bystander might become the victim of a homicide because of the actions of these people," he said.
Griffet noted that at least two of the shootings have been near noon on Sundays on North Fourth Street at a time and place where people are going to and from church.
"It suggests to me there is no restraint to control their anger or aggression to someone else," Griffet said of those involved.
The four people arrested remained in the county jail Wednesday afternoon pending appearances in bond court.
Anyone with information is asked to contact the Champaign Police Department at 351-4545. A reward of up to $1,000 will also be paid by Crimestoppers for information leading to the arrest of any person involved in these crimes. An anonymous call can be made to 373-8477 (TIPS) or an anonymous web tip can be submitted to 373tips.com. Information can also be sent by texting keyword CCTIP plus the information to 274637 (CRIMES)
Shootings that Champaign and Urbana police believe are related:
Oct. 29, 8:24 p.m.: Shots fired in the 1100 block of North Third Street in Champaign.
Nov. 4, 11:58 a.m.: Person shot at in the 400 block of East Church Street in Champaign.
Nov. 4, 8:41 p.m.: Vehicle window was shot out as it was moving in the 300 block of East Hill Street in Champaign.
Nov. 4, 11:44 p.m.: Person shot at as he was driving in the 1300 block of Hedge Road in Champaign.
Nov. 14, 1:30 a.m.: Home in the 1500 block of Romine Street in Urbana hit with gunfire.
Nov. 14, 1:50 a.m. Home in the 1200 block of Carver Street in Champaign shot at.
Nov. 18, 11:28 a.m.: Shots fired at a home in the 900 block of North Fourth Street in Champaign.