With multiple shootings reported over the weekend, gun violence is once again a pressing topic for the Mobile Police Department (MPD), but despite that, Chief Lawrence Battiste believes the city is making progress.
Between Saturday, Sept. 28 and Monday Sept. 30, MPD officers responded to six separate shootings in Mobile that left five people injured and two dead.
The first of two fatal incidents occurred near the 200 block of Laurel Drive Saturday afternoon, though the exact time is unclear. An unidentified man was taken from the scene to a local hospital, where he later died. It’s unclear what the motive or the circumstances that led to the shooting were.
Shortly after that a second shooting was reported at the scene of a vehicle accident less than a mile away. A vehicle had struck a pole, and officials from the Mobile Fire Rescue Department were later able to determine the driver was suffering from a non-life threatening gunshot wound. At this point, police have not said whether they believe the shooting was related to the incident on Laurel Drive.
Also on Saturday, patrons at Walk-On’s on Airport Boulevard were forced to take cover after a domestic argument led to gunshots being fired at the crowded restaurant. According to Public Information Officer Sgt. LaDerrick DuBose, police responded to the scene around 5 p.m., Saturday.
“The victim stated her ex-boyfriend came to the location demanding to see her. The victim stated the subject punched her in the face and he was later put out by the manager,” Dubose said in a statement. “The subject then retrieved a gun from his vehicle and fired multiple shots into the location.”
No injuries were reported in that shooting, and it’s unclear what, if any, damage the shooter caused.
On Sunday, police responded to reports of a body on Charmaine Circle around 9:45 a.m. A spokesperson said police aren’t yet sure if that case is a “criminal homicide,” but described it as a shooting death. Then on Monday, a man sustained non-life threatening injuries after he was shot by a woman at a gas station on Broad Street after an argument turned violent. The suspect quickly fled the area on foot.
So far, only one arrest has been made in all six shootings. None of the victims have been identified.
According to Mobile Metro Jail records, 21-year-old Jacorey Harper was arrested in connection with the shooting at Walk-On’s after turning himself in to police the following day. He’s facing charges of discharging a gun into an occupied building, reckless endangerment and domestic violence.
When asked, Battiste didn’t downplay the recent string of violent crimes, saying “it’s obviously not something we want to see happening in our community.” However, he told Lagniappe the sudden spike in shootings is an aberration when compared to the crime trends in Mobile over the past two years.
“This was probably one of the most violent weekends we’ve had in some time, with the exception of the incident we had at Ladd–Peebles Stadium [on Aug. 30] where nine victims were shot at one time,” Battiste said. “However, I do think we’ve had some significant progress as it relates to violent crime.”
Battiste was referring to recent dips in Part 1 crime, which includes serious offenses like homicide, rape, robbery, assault, burglary, larceny and car thefts. According to data from MPD’s 2018 annual report, the city saw a 15 percent reduction in Part 1 crime, which followed an 11 percent drop from 2017.
Mobile also saw a significant reduction in its homicide rate last year. From 2017 to 2018, the number of murders in Mobile fell from 50 to just 28 — a 46 percent drop in the calender year. However, 2019 is already on course to out-pace last year in terms of homicides and shootings.
There have been 30 criminal homicides in Mobile this year, according to an MPD spokesperson, and since January, there have been 139 shooting incidents where victims were actually shot. According to MPD, there were 193 of those incidents in all of 2018.
Outside of the statistical data, Battiste said MPD has also seen success in its recent efforts to prevent gun thefts and keep weapons out of the hands of young people. Following a public campaign earlier this year, Battiste said the number of guns stolen from unlocked cars has gone down around 35 percent.
“A lot of the suspects in our violent crimes are still in that 19 to 30 age range. Taking weapons out of the hands of those that are the least likely to be mature enough to handle them responsibility — that’s where we see our greatest success,” Battiste said. “Keeping weapons out of the hands of juveniles, in particular, has certainly been a focus in our community, and I believe we’ve seen some improvement.”
Battiste said police also plan to make use of a new law that went into effect this week making possession of any stolen firearm a felony offense. Prior to its passage, stealing a gun was considered a felony, but simply being caught with one was only a misdemeanor in many cases, depending on its value.
That bill was carried by Rep. Matt Simpson, R-Mobile, and took effect Tuesday, Oct. 1. It was pushed by a contingent of local law enforcement officials, but was spearheaded by Mobile’s Director of Public Safety James Barber. On Tuesday, Mayor Sandy Stimpson commended Barber for his work on the legislation.
“Today is the first day that we can actually use it, and I can tell you without a doubt that we’re certainly going to be aggressive in our approach to charging individuals that we catch in possession of stolen firearms,” Battiste said. “This is another tool that we can use to help make our community safer by holding those individuals in possession of stolen firearms more accountable for their actions.”
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