INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — The Marion County prosecutor on Wednesday talked directly with the community about gun violence in Indianapolis.
Ryan Mears heard passionate pleas and heartfelt words from people at an event at Olivet Missionary Baptist Church. Another community conversation was set for Wednesday night at the northwest-side church.
Anthoney Hampton was one of the people wo attended. He has lived in Indianapolis for over 40 years and has kept an eye on city violence. “It’s out of control now. When I was a kid there weren’t guns. It’s totally different.”
Hampton said he felt Mears and others at the event listened willingly. “Hopefully, the shootings stop. Hopefully, the killings stop.”
Another person who attended, DeAndra Dycus, knows the pain of gun violence. Her son, who will be 21 later this year, was shot by a stray bullet while at a birthday party when he was 13, back in 2014. He’s in a wheelchair now, and is unable to walk or eat on his own. It’s her mission to keep his story going.
She said, “For various reasons, these families don’t always speak out. They don’t always come forward. So, we need to make sure that we’re supporting these families and letting them know they have a voice at the table, too. For me, that was so important as to why. I made Dre a promise I would be his voice until God gave it back. I’d be his legs, I’d be his arms.”
Dycus said she wants something tangible to come from the conversation with the prosecutor. “I’ve been concerned about gun violence in the city for a long period of time.”
“Action. I want action,” Dycus added.
Dozens of other people also attended the community conversation about nondeadly gun violence in Indianapolis. Mears said, “The solve rate as it relates to nonfatal shootings is incredibly low. That’s an area where we have to improve and we have to get better because if we don’t, this cycle of violence is going to continue.”
Mears said 317 nonfatal shootings and 356 victims have been recorded from Jan. 1-June 18 this year. He cites the cycle of violence, and a lack of trust between the community and law enforcement.
“We need to make sure that we are doing everything in our power to build that trust and that relationship between the community and law enforcement so people come forward with information. Of all the nonfatal shootings in Marion County, there is someone out there who knows that happened.”
Mears added, “There is somebody out there who can provide information about what occurred, but it’s on us and law enforcement. It’s on us in the criminal justice system. We have to make those investments in the community where the community is willing to trust us and come forward with that information.”
The prosecutor also offered improvement plans, including better digital evidence gathering, compelling uncooperative victims and witnesses to testify, and investing more resources in victim outreach and witness protection.
“Making sure the community is aware that we do have the ability to help, but our help is somewhat limited. So, we need to continue to have that conversation on things we can do to build those resources and help make people feel comfortable to come forward with information,” said Mears, a Democrat.
Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department officers also attended the event to listen. Chris Bailey, IMPD assistant chief, said of the community conversation with Mears, “I think it’s great. I think we heard some great ideas from our prosecutor who is working hard, and his staff, every single day to help our community reduce these nonfatal shootings and hold accountable those that commit them in our community and traumatize our community. We heard today some great comments and suggestions about our police department. We know how the community feels. What it shows me is we have a great deal of work to do to continue to build a bridge in that gap between the police and the community.”