Danville tackles spate of shootings; police seek public's help
DANVILLE — After three Danville residents were shot on their front porch around midnight on June 20, authorities found their suspect — more than 100 miles away.
Seventeen-year-old Malachi D. Hatcher was nabbed in Chicago by the local police a few days later.
The victims — a 44-year-old male, a 46-year-old female and a 16-year-old male — received non-life-threatening injuries. And Hatcher is now facing three counts of aggravated battery with a firearm, a Class X felony, and a possible prison sentence if he's convicted.
"He was a Danville resident but originally was from Chicago," Danville Public Safety Director Larry Thomason said, adding that local police immediately alerted Chicago authorities that the suspect may have fled to his old turf.
While not true with every case, Thomason said many incidents involving gun violence in that city have a tie to Chicago, where at least 82 people were shot — 14 of them killed — over the holiday weekend. In most cases, Thomason said, the suspect is from there or a transplant.
Thomason declined to say how many shootings in the city have been gang-related, but he acknowledged that's always a concern and one of the first aspects police investigate.
"Last summer, we had a rivalry between two so-called gangs, who were going back and forth over what they considered their territory," he said.
It resulted in the May 21, 2013 fatal shooting of Latifah D.L. Cross, of Chicago, at a house on Danville's Moore Street, Thomason said. Kevin L. Marshall and Ollie Williams, both 24 and Danville residents, face first-degree murder and weapons charges in connection with her death and are set to stand trial in August.
"It's a sad situation," Thomason said of the gun violence, which may erupt over drugs, a domestic dispute or some other disagreement. "Young people turn to that as a means of answering a dispute instead of trying to resolve it another way.
"Too readily they pull a pistol. There seems to be a lack of value for life and a lack of understanding that once they pull that trigger and a bullet hits someone, (the victim's) life is over, their life is ruined, and the lives of two families are ruined."
Thomason said the more common thread is the shooter having a gun illegally. He stressed it's important for people who lawfully own guns to keep them locked up, and for private sellers to conduct business through licensed dealers, to ensure they don't fall into the wrong hands.
Thomason said the police also need more help from the community. It's a recurring theme for local police chiefs.
Danville police have had at least seven shootings in the past four months. Thomason acknowledged there may also have been other calls for shots fired, but at the time, nothing was found.
He said 2014's shootings mirror a spate that occurred around the same time frame last year. And as they did a year ago, police beefed up patrols this spring in targeted areas in response to the shootings and other crime.
While that's been somewhat helpful, Thomason said "the downside is they're not always able to be in those areas as much as we'd like them to be because of the resources we have available. Our patrol officers must respond to any call in the community. So, they could be assigned to a target area but pulled away because they have to respond to another call."
He said law enforcement seems to have the support of the court, with judges setting high bonds in shooting cases. Hatcher's bond was set at $1 million.
But until more people are willing to provide police with information, he said, cases like the latest homicide — on June 30, when a man was fatally shot in his Marion Street residence — will go unsolved.
"People fear retaliation," Thomason said. "Some people think, 'I saw something, but it doesn't mean anything.' It could be the piece that sends us in the right direction. ... The community has to stand up and say enough is enough.
"Until they do, we're only pushing this down the road, and it's going to continue."