Situation on Sixth Street: 'It's sad'
CHAMPAIGN — On Sunday afternoon, community leaders banded together in Douglass Park to make a passionate plea for safe streets.
Twelve hours later, the latest round of gunfire erupted, just a block away from where 22-year-old Rakim Vineyard was fatally shot three weeks earlier.
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Things have gotten so scary, neighborhood resident Towanda Frazier said Tuesday from her porch, she no longer feels comfortable allowing her 5-year-old grandson to play outside.
“I don’t let him come outside and ride his bike any more,” Frazier said. “I find myself being a lot more cautious about my surroundings, and I try to pay more attention to details.”
At 3:39 a.m. Monday, Champaign police say, someone fired multiple shots into a house in the 1100 block of North Sixth Street, where adults and children ages 1 and 2 were present.
According to Lt. Bob Rea, police received an anonymous call saying a person was shooting from a maroon van. At the time, officers were unable to locate the van and were unaware of any homes being hit.
But later, residents reported that rounds had been fired into their home. Officers discovered the house had been struck seven times and said the damage was consistent with bullets going through the walls.
Rea described the area as being “unusually violent recently,” which has left neighborhood residents both fearful and frustrated.
“I was born and raised in this house,” said Frazier, who lives a block from where Monday’s shooting happened. “This needs to stop. We’re going to be living here for 20, 30 more years, and we need to be able to know if we can go in or out of our house.
“Not only do we need people to put their guns down, but we need more education. We need tougher laws against these youngsters who are getting ahold of these guns.”
The violence has hit home with Frazier, who said Mr. Vineyard was her nephew’s father. Police have not arrested his killer or killers.
“My nephew has no dad no more, and nobody has been brought up on the charges,” Frazier said. “It’s sad. The victims of the last two killings were boys who could have grown up to be the next president. They have no opportunity for anything positive. Something needs to be done about it.”
Malik Rhodes shares Frazier’s concerns. This isn’t the North Sixth Street he has known.
“I don’t even want to be outside any more,” Rhodes said late Tuesday afternoon after coming home from his job at Arby’s. “I just hope that the people who have been doing this move out of the community so we can go on with our lives.”
Nearby, 55-year-old Melvin Dudley wondered where the young people are getting the guns that have been used in the recent shootings.
“Nobody in the community is giving the guns to them,” Dudley said. “We need all this foolishness to stop. The young people need adults to be good examples so they will make better decisions.”
Dudley said he believes witnesses to the neighborhood’s recent incidents haven’t provided information to police because they don’t trust law enforcement.
“It has always been that way,” he said. “All across America, there is mistrust between the police and the African-American community. ... The witnesses don’t trust the police to protect them. The police can only do so much. They can’t have a squad car everywhere. The budget and the manpower won’t allow it.
“More patrols are not going to stop the shootings. After the patrols drive away, there are still going to be old ladies and children here living in fear. They are the real victims.”
Anyone with information that could help police should call the department at 217-351-4545 or contact Champaign County Crimestoppers at 217-373-8477. Information may also be sent anonymously online at www.373tips.com or by cellphone text message by sending CCTIP plus the information to CRIMES (274637).
Crimestoppers will pay a reward if the information leads to an arrest. Cash rewards are also paid for information on other felony crimes or fugitives in the Champaign County area.
— Mary Schenk contributed to this report