In the seven days between September 4 and September 11, Burlington saw five shootings, two of them resulting in the loss of life of young men.
“We’re better than this,” said Burlington City Council member Jon Billups.
These five shootings represent the deadliest of the shootings from this summer. The eleven shootings of record this summer, which have taken place in several locations, have one thing in common — they happened in Burlington.
And in three of those shootings, bullets hit people. Family, friends — loved ones.
On Sept. 5, an argument broke out in the parking lot at Big Muddy’s that led to shots being fired at a crowd. No one was killed, but three people suffered injuries, two of whom needed medical attention. Chad Allen Sharkey was later arrested and charged with intimidation with a weapon and two counts of willful injury.
Reynaldo “Rey” Villarreal, 28, of Burlington, was killed after he was shot once in the chest last Sunday. Police have arrested 25-year-old Diavontae Davis on charges of first-degree murder, intimidation with a gun, going armed with intent and possession of a gun by a felon.
Then Wednesday morning, gunshots were fired at a house on Gunnison Street, leading police to pull over the truck Caleb Peterson, 25, was driving. He got out of the car and a gun battle ensued with officers, leaving Peterson dead.
Micah Hines, of Burlington, said he knew both men killed last week and the three were part of a group that partied together.
“It’s given me a new perspective,” said Hines.
Hines has been on edge this week. He said he has been calling old friends and asking to hang out. He said after this week, he wonders if he will lose another friend to gun violence.
Hines isn’t the only one harboring fears of gun violence.
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It was Rasheid Denson’s birthday party that Villarreal was attending when he was gunned down in front of his friends and family. Denson said he didn’t have words to describe how it felt to know his uncle-to-be was killed.
Denson’s fiance, Elizabeth Villarreal, said while she’s grieving the loss of her uncle, who she described as her best friend, she’s also trying to be a parent to four young children trying to understand what has happened.
“My son told me today, Mommy maybe if you stop crying, your best friend will come back,” she said on Saturday at a benefit for Villarreal.
The story of the violence of the summer of 2019 began on June 23, when shots were fired in the air in front of a house on Smith Street. Twelve weeks have passed since that day and ten more shootings have occurred.
The numbers from the Burlington Police Department show 2019 has been more violent than 2018.
This year, four people have been victims of homicide, last year there were none. Only 22 shots fired calls were recorded in 2018. There have been 33 shots fired calls so far this year, with nearly 3 months left.
But, Burlington Police Chief Dennis Kramer said those numbers don’t reflect the direction the city is going.
Violent crime has been going down. Having two to three homicides in a single year was normal prior to 2018. Burlington has averaged about 10 non-fatal shooting victims a year in the past four years, but this year there have only been four. Burglaries are down and Burlington is on track to have the fewest aggravated assaults in a single year in the past five years.
Friday afternoon, The Hawk Eye talked with Billups and Burlington Mayor Shane McCampbell to ask how they felt about the violence that has plagued the city of Burlington this summer.
“It’s a culture problem,” McCampbell argued.
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McCampbell said he’s felt anger on more than one occasion but it has never even crossed his mind to go out and shoot someone. McCampbell said he thinks an element of the problem is lack of respect for police, but also for people in general.
McCampbell said he would like to see stronger family units in Burlington. He said he’s not speaking as a Mayor, he’s simply speaking as a resident, a man who has lived in Burlington all his life.
In addition to a stronger family unit, McCampbell also said he thinks people should take ownership to keep their friends and family safe. He said if it is a situation that could put someone in danger, just don’t do it.
Billups echoed McCampbell’s message in a different interview. He said he wants people to realize the violence is not a “Chicago problem,” it’s a Burlington problem.
The two were in full agreement, they will continue to support the Burlington Police Department and their efforts to keep the citizens of Burlington safe.
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