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Thursday, June 8, 2023

‘We’re all potential victims’

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Note: This story has been edited to include information on Day’Shawn Bills’ death.

A 12-year-old boy is dead after being shot in the early morning of May 20. Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department (IMPD) officers were dispatched to the 3400 block of North Leland Avenue near 34th Street and Emerson Avenue after Day’Shawn Bills was shot just before 3:40 a.m.

Bills remained in critical condition May 20. His family confirmed to WRTV that he died from his injuries May 21.

Police say Bills was visiting his grandparents and playing video games with family members when he was shot. IMPD Chief Randal Taylor said he doesn’t believe Bills was the intended victim of what is believed to be a random drive-by.

“As a community, we have got to take a different approach,” Taylor said during a press conference May 20. “We have a problem. What keeps me awake at night is trying to figure out what’s going on. … We’re all potential victims.”

Bills is a student at Arlington Middle School. in Indianapolis Public Schools (IPS).

“The Indianapolis Public Schools community extends our heartfelt thoughts and prayers to the family and friends of Day’Shawn Bills, a 7th grade student at Arlington Middle School,” IPS officials said in a statement. “This is a tragedy that our families and communities should never have to experience, and we are saddened by the gun violence that continues to impact us all.”

Taylor urges anyone with information in this shooting, or any other homicides in the city, to contact IMPD’s homicide unit or Marion County Crime Stoppers.

So far this year, Indianapolis has had 80 homicides, the majority of which were committed with a firearm. This time last year, there were 75 homicides in Indianapolis. As summer nears — the Department of Justice notes crime rates peak nationwide in the warm months — IMPD, local leaders and community groups are looking to curb violence in the city before it happens. This task, Mayor Joe Hogsett said during the press conference, will require residents to work together.

“This cannot be the lived experience of families in this city,” Hogsett said. “… We have an unprecedented amount of resources addressing the root causes of violence, but it still hasn’t been enough.”

Hogsett said he supports “common sense” gun legislation — including closing gun show loopholes and expanding background checks — on both a national and local level. Despite what he perceives to be a lack of action on gun control, Hogsett cited several city groups, including the Peacemakers and the Office of Community Violence Reduction, as effective efforts in tackling gun violence.

Kendra Nowell, chief programs officer at the Community Alliance of the Far Eastside, said her organization will offer various summer programs for youth to keep them busy and out of trouble. 2021 high school graduates can join a program that provides career readiness to prepare them for the workforce, and younger children will have remedial and enrichment programs.

Beyond education, though, Nowell said we have to focus on getting residents’ needs met before we can tackle homicides.

“There’s a direct correlation between crime and a lack of basic needs,” Nowell said. “If we start from that standpoint, if we come together and make sure those needs are met and offer programs and services starting from an early age, we can help.”

Nowell said community organizations need to work closely with one another and with law enforcement and city officials to educate the community on the impacts of poverty and how that can lead to crime.

While Nowell and Hogsett seem cautiously optimistic that programs planned over the next several months can curb violence, they and others in the community know no amount of progress will undo the damage caused by gun violence in the city.

“I’m sick and tired of these babies being snatched from us,” community member and activist Antonio Patton said. “A kid can’t sit and play video games without being shot? I’ve got a 15-year-old son, and I don’t want to bury him.”

Patton spoke with the victim’s family shortly after the shooting and said their lives have been changed forever. The victim’s grandmother, he said, doesn’t want vengeance for her grandson’s shooter, but justice.

“She just wants to make sure that no other grandmother has to go through this,” Patton said. “That no other grandmother has to feel like this. … I’m tired of this violence. I don’t want to go to any more memorials.”

Contact staff writer Breanna Cooper at 317-762-7848. Follow her on Twitter @BreannaNCooper.

If you have any information on this shooting or another homicide, please call IMPD’s Homicide Unit at 317-327-3475, or Marion County Crime Stoppers at 317-2628477. All calls may be anonymous.

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