Community leaders speak out after third deadly Niles shooting in two months
BERRIEN COUNTY, Mich. (WNDU) - Police continue to investigate a shooting Tuesday night that killed two teens and left three others injured.
It’s not the only homicide investigation police are handling. In fact, it’s the third in the past two months. Authorities believe all of the shootings are connected.
On Thursday, community leaders and investigators with the Niles Police Department spoke out about the path of healing and justice. Both say people who know something need to start speaking up, whether it’s to solve these crimes or just to deal with the emotions from four unsolved homicides in the past six weeks.
“We believe all three of these shootings are related and it’s retaliation,” said Mike Dawson, Niles Police Department Operations Captain. “We had one homicide and then we had a retaliated homicide two weeks later. Now, a week and a half later, we another homicide.”
Captain Dawson says they’ve received countless anonymous tips, but they won’t be able to build a case and arrest a suspect unless those sources agree to tell what they know in court.
“A lot of tips are coming in but if people don’t want to tell us who they are or be willing to come forth and testify, that is our biggest problem we’re having right now,” Captain Dawson said.
Local pastor, Martinez Stephens, reflected on the violent past month-and-a-half. Pastor Stephens said that Tuesday night’s shooting, which police say was carried out by a group of young people who started opening fire from outside the home, is just reckless. Police say they not only need tips into what happened, but they also need people who are willing to testify in court in order for them to be able to make a case against a suspect.
Pastor Stephens said the community needs to use their words, not guns, to stop the cycle of violence.
“Let’s talk about it,” Stephens said. “Let’s figure out what’s going on in your mind, let’s figure about how this family feels, let’s figure out what they have to say, and provide a type of environment where there is less hostility.”
Not only does he say this community needs to start talking to heal from the recent violence, but also to keep these tragedies from happening again.
“When you lose a loved one, that hurts,” Pastor Stephens said. “You can’t play that off. That hurts. But, causing more pain doesn’t take away the pain.”
Pastor Stephens said he’s planning on an event to meet these kids where they’re at. He and some other faith leaders are planning a youth event for this Saturday happening at the Niles YMCA to try and connect with anyone who needs a shoulder to lean on.
Anyone with information that could lead police to make an arrest is asked to call the Niles Police Department or Michiana Crime Stoppers.
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