Community angered over recent shootings
City Hall erupted with anger last week over the shooting death of an innocent man outside of his home in west Philadelphia.
The Rev. Willie C. Rush, pastor of Goodway Missionary Baptist Church, and church member Kizzy Donald sent a strong message about crime during the Jan. 4 meeting of the Mayor and Board of Aldermen.
“The city has failed,” Donald, a nurse, told board members in reference to the Dec. 27 shooting that killed Tommie Warren at his home near her home on Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Drive that’s near the church.
Police said a stray bullet struck Warren as rival gangs fired guns at each other in the area near where Donald lives with her two sons.
“Unless what happened on Monday night happens in your neighborhood at your house, then nothing will get done,” Donald said, pointing her fingers at board members. “It’s not a race thing. It’s a people thing.”
Donald said the shooting took place while she was cleaning her bathroom.
She heard a noise in her backyard, walked outside to check and saw a group of men fighting, she said. One of them was holding an AK-47-style weapon so she called police.
“As small as this town is, police officers know who is a felon and who a criminal is,” Donald said.
The officer who arrived could not arrest anyone because he did not have signed warrants, Donald said, adding she had to beg the officer to make an arrest.
Meanwhile, she said, one of her two sons fell to the ground while the chaos was happening around their Martin Luther King Jr. Dr. home.
Rush, the pastor at Goodway on nearby Atkins Street, told board members he believed that having police patrol the neighborhood might help deter crime.
“I don’t know if it’s black-on-black crime or white-on-white crime, but I believe having more patrolmen in the neighborhood would help,” Rush said, adding that patroling officers should not harass people or stop them for just anything. “When you ride through our community, they need to get to know people and meet the people of the community they patrol.”
Patrolmen, he said firmly, need to know who they are protecting to get a better understanding of how to help.
Rush said the city’s gun violence is out of control and that one night, his congregation heard gunshots as they were leaving a service and had to rush back into the “House of God.”
He said everyone should get to know each other and respect each other to improve the community.
After the two had addressed the board, Ward 1 Alderman Justin Clearman voiced his concern.
“Nothing like that should ever happen to anyone, and I am sorry you and your kids had to go through that,” Clearman said.
Clearman later suggested holding a town meeting so people could come out to meet police officers and to give everyone a chance to voice their concerns.
“I want the community to be able to voice their opinions directly to us and not just over Facebook,” Clearman said.
Other aldermen expressed their concern and a desire to make the community safe.
“I just want to let you know that I do care and I want things to get better for y’all and I’m sorry you and your family had to go through that” said Ward 2 Alderman Jim Fulton acting as mayor pro tem in the absence of Mayor James A. Young.
Police Chief Eric Lyons has been a champion of community policing since being appointed last February. In March, the newly-appointed Lyons took off his uniform to shoot hoops with youth during the opening of the Westside Basketball Court.
“We are working and are continuing to work,” he said of the case.
Lyons said officers work all cases hard without regard for race.
“In reference to some of what you said about some case being worked harder on because a lot of white folks like him… there are several incidents this whole year where we work regardless of if a lot of white folks likes them.”
Before six more people were arrested later in the week, Lyons said at last Tuesday’s meeting, “Six people in jail in a week because we are working hard on everyone regardless of skin color.”