'Cease fire now': C-U speakers call for end of gun violence
CHAMPAIGN — Community members are pleading with those responsible for this weekend's shootings to "cease fire now" and stop the violence before an innocent bystander gets hurt.
A number of groups called a morning press conference on Monday to address the violence and to ask residents to take responsibility for their actions and for their families.
"The message is clear, concise and with brevity: Cease fire now," said Herb Burnett, who owns Suits by Soouljah on Bradley Avenue.
While police continue to ask for the public's help in gathering information, their comments came after four shootings injured six men on Friday and Saturday. Police arrested one suspect, 19-year-old Jamonte Hill of Urbana, on Saturday night for his alleged connection in a Friday afternoon shooting in the 1100 block of Mimosa Drive.
"Whatever has prompted the need to fire guns, the community says it's not that serious," said Lekevie Johnson, pastor of Jericho Missionary Baptist Church.
The shootings have occurred across the north and northwest parts of Champaign. Johnson has said some residents are afraid to step outside of their homes in the wake of the violence.
"Whatever the issues are, resolve them in a peaceful manner," Johnson said, his comments aimed at those responsible for the shootings.
Victims and suspects in the weekend shootings have been young men, roughly 18 to 20 years old. Burnett called on them to look toward their futures.
"You young men are our future, and by shooting each other, you are causing self-inflicted wounds," Burnett said. "Our future depends on you. We are expecting you to lead us. We need you."
Others asked for parents to take responsibility for their families. Janice Mitchell, the parent and community liaison at Urbana School District 116, said summer has begun.
"We have a responsibility to make certain that all of our children are safe," Mitchell said.
She said children walking to the park or to summer activities should not have to worry about stray gunfire.
"You may be targeting one person, but far too often we know, innocent bystanders have the results of those bullets," Mitchell said.
The investigation into the weekend shootings continues, but Champaign police spokeswoman Rene Dunn said there is little in the way of updates.
"We're following up on leads," Dunn said. "Our biggest thing right now is urging the community to come forward."
Police have not released the conditions of victims hit with gunfire. Several were taken to the hospital. At least one did not seek treatment.
Sunday remained quiet after two shootings each on Friday and Saturday, but speakers at Monday's news conference said they must take it upon themselves to ensure it stays that way.
"We must rise to a challenge, work together, cease fire and stop the bloodshed now," said Champaign City Council member Will Kyles.