Wichita police, community members address sharp uptick in shootings, call for calm
WICHITA, Kan. (KWCH) - Wichita police, city leaders and community members came together Friday to address a sharp uptick in shootings. Gangs, juveniles, and guns are the common themes with the rise in violent crimes.
With New Year’s Day coming up Sunday, those gathered at a WPD press conference expressed hope that violence doesn’t break out over the holiday weekend.
Pastor Albert Paredes of Praise Chapel was among community members gathered Friday to hear from the Wichita Police Department and to discuss the issue of violence in the city. Paredes said he’s seeing the impact of gun violence injuries and deaths involving juveniles and young adults.
“Funerals are the worst things that a pastor wants to do. Worst,” Paredes said. “I get the privilege and honor to do one [Saturday].”
Since Dec. 10, Wichita police report responding to six gang-related shootings. The shootings have left multiple people injured, including one on Dec. 16 from which an 18-year-old man remains in the hospital after being shot in the head. The shooter in that case is in custody.
The most recent gang-related shooting, police say, happened Wednesday, Dec. 28. This was a drive-by shooting that was livestreamed. Wichita police say gangs feuding on social media are driving the violence.
“It’s nonstop. It doesn’t end when everyone goes home for the night. They post everything, they talk about it, they put it on Instagram. They do whatever and it just continues to feed,” said Wichita Police Lt. Chad Beard with the department’s Investigations Division.
Wichita police say they’re following four distinct feuds but the main one dates to March and a deadly shooting at the east Wichita mall, Towne East Square.
“In August, we had another related homicide to this feud. Then we had one in September in the 5000 block of Osie,” WPD Deputy Chief Jose Salcido explained.
Salcido is also with the department’s Investigations Division.
Police and community leaders say this shows that people need to get involved and parents need to be monitoring their children.
“I come to tell somebody; you must do something. If you keep sitting behind your screen, talking about the young people, talking about what they’re not doing, all you’re doing is making noise,” said Pastor Odell Harris, Heavenly Gates Mortuary vice president.
After an active few weeks, Wichita police and community leaders are seeking calm this New Year’s weekend.
“This Saturday night, this New Year’s night, hug your kids and make them stay at home,” Harris said. “Hug your kids and tell them, ‘We’re not going nowhere. We’re going to eat popcorn and watch movies here at the house.’”
Wichita City Councilmember Brandon Johnson said people “have to get involved as a community and really look out for our young people.”
“They’re crying out in the schools saying they don’t feel safe. They’re crying out in the streets saying they don’t feel safe. We have to do more than what we are doing right now,” Johnson said.
Greg Koehn with Hope for Da Hood Ministries said he found Friday’s meeting with police and fellow community leaders to be a step in the right direction.
“My biggest takeaway was hope, that with everybody coming, everything that’s being said, everything that they are wanting to do, that there’s hope, that’ it’s not just going to be words, that we’re actually going to have action, boots on the ground,” Koehn said.
David Gilkey with Rise Up for Youth said the growing trend concerning juveniles and violence in Wichita is a major concern. Gilkey said he’s lost 24 young men to gun violence since he started his mentorship program.
“It’s a big concern. It affects all of us. It doesn’t matter what color of their skin, race, background is. If we lose our young people, it affects us all.”
Gilkey said through his mentorship, he’s seen kids changer their mindsets and their lifestyles to keep them out of trouble.
“Your education is your ticket up out of here,” he said. “if you want to be successful, I give them the three ‘Ds’ to success: discipline, dedication and determination. If they apply that to their life, they will be successful.”
Koehn and Gilkey said it’s going to take a collective effort to keep the community’s youth safe and away from violence.
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