Cobb: 'We cannot arrest our way out of this problem'
CHAMPAIGN — The capture of Rakim Vineyard's killer alone won't solve the city's ongoing violence problem, Champaign Police Chief Anthony Cobb said.
"We cannot arrest our way out of this problem," Cobb told The News-Gazette on Monday night, prior to speaking to the United Garden Hills Neighborhood Association. "We need neighborhoods, just like this association, working together to deal with the problems. We're not going to tolerate this activity in our neighborhoods."
Cobb took to the streets Monday, two days after the city's second fatal shooting in 25 days. Mr. Vineyard, 22, was shot at about 12:24 p.m. Saturday in the 1000 block of North Sixth Street, roughly a block north of Douglass Park.
Police hadn't made any arrests as of Monday night but revealed more details about Saturday's homicide two days later:
— Three homes in the area were also struck by gunfire in the same incident, spokeswoman Rene Dunn said.
— One of the rounds penetrated the exterior wall of a home and hit a 14-year-old boy in the leg. Cobb called the boy's injuries "superficial," adding, "He didn't need medical attention."
— The shooter and Mr. Vineyard knew one another, Cobb said police now believe. The armed man was described as a black male, between 17-25 years old; about 5 feet, 9 inches tall and wearing a white shirt and denim shorts or pants.
— Mr. Vineyard died from a gunshot wound to the back, according to preliminary results of an autopsy conducted Monday in Urbana, said Champaign County Coroner Duane Northrup.
Police don't know if Saturday's shooting is connected to others in the city in recent weeks, including the June 24 fatal shooting of Allen Redding in the 1500 block of Hedge Road.
"Everyone who is a resident of the city of Champaign or Champaign County should be concerned," Cobb said. "What happened in Garden Hills or what happened in the 1000 block of North Sixth Street could happen anywhere there is a conflict between two people and there is a weapon available."
Dunn said Champaign police have increased their presence in the north and northwest areas of the city, where gunfire has been prevalent.
Cobb said officers are beginning to note another troubling theme with recent incidents: Many of them involve "organized groups," or gangs.
"Groups are working together," he said. "The problem with these groups today is that they are friends today and enemies tomorrow. People are constantly changing sides.
"There are undertones in which drugs are involved, and that makes it more challenging for us," he said.
Mr. Redding's death last month prompted Garden Hills residents to invite Cobb and other city officials to Monday's meeting.
"I've lived here for 26 years, and, of course, I'm concerned when we hear things happen like this," Association President Amy Revilla said. "But it happens everywhere else, too. I don't like to see it, but we want to reach out to the neighbors so we can let their fears be eased somewhat."
Becky Restad said she has lived in the neighborhood since she was a first-grader, attending a brand-new Garden Hills Elementary School.
"I'm not afraid to be out here," Restad said. "This is our neighborhood, and we want to pull together to get this under control. If you show you are afraid, that's when they target you."
Cobb suggested people who are afraid to talk to police use their smartphones to help.
"We ask people to take cover if they happen to be around gunfire. Protect yourselves first," Cobb said. "If you are unwilling or are scared to talk to the police, use your smartphone. Over half the population has a smartphone.
"Photograph what you can at the scene. Photograph the suspect if you can do it safely. Get the vehicle and license plate. Video-record it," he said. "If you don't feel comfortable talking with us, send the photos and videos to Crimestoppers. Those things can be helpful to us in an investigation."