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Community reacts to Wednesday's quadruple homicide in Indianapolis

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Posted at 1:27 PM, Feb 06, 2020
and last updated 2020-02-07 09:52:21-05

INDIANAPOLIS — After four people were gunned down inside an Indianapolis apartment on Wednesday, the community is stepping up and demanding action from those in charge to help combat the increasing crime they say is plaguing the city — particularly the city's east side.

Community and faith leaders were joined by members of the Indianapolis Police Department and others in the area where the murders took place on Thursday to hold a prayer vigil at the apartment complex.

Indianapolis Fraternal Order of Police President Rick Snyder held a press conference alongside community leaders calling on Mayor Joe Hogsett and other city leaders to do more to fight the violence in the city.

Greater Indianapolis NAACP Branch 3053 President Chrystal Ratcliffe issued the following statement:

The Greater Indianapolis NAACP is heartbroken to learn of the senseless gun violence that took the lives of four young people last night. Our thoughts today are with their families, who are experiencing a shock and a loss that no one should have to bear — and that too many in our community have experienced. In a few moments, four young lives were cut short. We grieve with the families. We send our condolences to the mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, extended family and friends who are mourning today. We also stand ready to work with the city, the faith community, our schools, and other community organizations to solve the problems that lead to violence, so we never experience another day like today.

The Indiana chapter of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense, part of Everytown for Gun Safety, issued the following statement through volunteer Alexandra Rollo:

We're keeping everyone affected by last night's shooting in our thoughts. No one should have to experience the trauma of gun violence, and we'll never stop fighting for the safer future all of us deserve.

Phelan Leadership Academy students react to the violence

Several students at Phelan Leadership Academy messaged their principal after the shooting. Taevion Walker said she does what she can to avoid getting shot.

"When I heard the gunshots, basically, it felt like just another day," Walker said. "My bed is closer to the wall, farther from my window, so if I was to hear gunshots, I'd fall in the floor under my window."

Darrance Jennings, who also attends Phelan Leadership Academy, said he and other students prefer to stay after school and play basketball or do anything else to get away from all the violence and drama that awaits them in their neighborhood.

"The building is usually half-full at night with activities," Jennings said.

Phalen Leadership Academy founder and CEO Earl Phelan said his school is doing what they can to keep students safe, but he knows they can only do so much.

"We put together an 18-point plan that we want the city to execute. Part of it is just about community policing and presence," Phelan said.

Phalen Leadership Academies also released a statement Thursday afternoon calling on Mayor Hogsett and the city of Indianapolis to show leadership and help the families and children living on the city's far east side, an area that sees more violence than any other area of Indianapolis.

"At Phalen Leadership Academies, we are disgusted by the lack of leadership and the lack of safety for our children and families on the Far Eastside," the release begins.

Phalen Leadership Academies says the quadruple homicide impacted several children in their organization who live in the same apartment complex where the violence broke out, "Our children and parents were forced to slide out of their beds and cower on the floor last night as gunshots rang out. Other children laid on top of their grandmothers, mothers and younger brothers and sisters so they would absorb the gun shots, and not their loved ones."

The release continues, "We reached out to the Mayor this summer and again last month requesting a Call to Action to increase peace and safety on the Far Eastside. We offered to work in collaboration with the Mayor. But even though PLA represents thousands of Far Eastside children and families, the Mayor’s office didn’t even bother to respond."

You can read the full press release from Earl Martin Phalen, Founder & CEO of Phalen Leadership Academies below:

At Phalen Leadership Academies, we are disgusted by the lack of leadership and the lack of safety for our children and families on the Far Eastside. We, as an organization, have worked very hard to provide safe spaces and programs for our children while the Mayor has done absolutely nothing. Our children and parents were forced to slide out of their beds and cower on the floor last night as gunshots rang out. Other children laid on top of their grandmothers, mothers and younger brothers and sisters so they would absorb the gun shots, and not their loved ones.

The Mayor’s response. Nothing. He and his team have to be embarrassed by this morning’s press conference. One of the main responsibilities of the Mayor is to ensure the safety of his citizens; and he is both failing miserably at this core responsibility. He is not keeping his citizens safe, and he clearly has absolutely no plan or urgency to address this crisis.

This is a VERY sad day for the city of Indianapolis.

We reached out to the Mayor this summer and again last month requesting a Call to Action to increase peace and safety on the Far Eastside. We offered to work in collaboration with the Mayor. But even though PLA represents thousands of Far Eastside children and families, the Mayor’s office didn’t even bother to respond.

This Mayor has failed us. He continues to fail us, and there continues to be fear in the hearts of our children and blood in our streets.

We invite reporters to interview our scholars regarding the violence that they face each day once they leave our school doors.

Below is the plan that we submitted to the Mayor’s Office last month.

Our hope is that if the Mayor does not listen to us, they will hear the cries of our scholars and take meaningful action to create a safer community. Please contact us to hear a view from our children and citizens’ side on the impact of the violence and the issues that our families face each day due to lack of action and response from those who were elected to serve and protect.

Below are the proven strategies that have been demonstrated to work in other communities comparable to ours, and that we want to work with you to bring to reality on the Far Eastside.

PLA has already taken action to increase security at our middle/high school by hiring full-time security guards; expanding our athletics programs and after school clubs; working with the Lilly Endowment and CICF/Glick to create a Cultural and Arts Center; partnering with Teen Works and others to provide our scholars with work experiences; ensuring 100% of our scholars are signed up for Indiana’s 21st Century Scholars Program; and creating space in our soon to be renovated high school for a Police substation/rest area.

Residents have become increasingly concerned about the significant decline in the number of stores and other services in the area. They are concerned about the lack of youth services in the community to nurture and encourage youth to become responsible, civic-minded adults. They are concerned about the disrepair of streets and sidewalks, their safety, and other city services. Most importantly, they are concerned about the increasing violence, the unsolved shootings and murders, and the lack of urgency regarding the safety of our elderly, our neighbors, and, most significantly, our children.-

These sentiments have been echoed time and time again. We must move to action. PLA, with its partners, have developed a set of actions that we know will help to increase the safety in our neighborhoods.

Below are the proven strategies that have been demonstrated to work in other communities comparable to ours, and that we want to work with you to bring to reality on the Far Eastside.

Improve Community Conditions
· Ensure that every major road on the Far Eastside has sidewalks so residents do not have to dangerously walk on the streets during snowy weather – or at any other time.
· Double the bus route frequency in our community, so that our residents can access downtown for employment or other opportunities.
· Ensure all school zones must have working warning signals and periodically have officers enforcing these zones to ensure the safety of children, parents and staff.
· Double the number of street lights on the Far Eastside to ensure better night visibility in our neighborhoods.

Increase Policing
· Work with local leadership and community-based organizations to get gun violence classified as a public health issue.
· Double the number of police patrolling the Far Eastside.
· Ensure officers are not just in the community, but are actively driving and patrolling the community.
· Institute a community policing approach to allow more integration, trust and collaboration with the community and key community-based organizations.
· Strongly encourage housing development owners on the Far Eastside to employ armed security guards during the highest crime hours.

Increase Engagement Opportunities for Youth
· Fund the development of a community center in the Far Eastside, ensuring children, youth and adults have high quality out of school time opportunities and activities.
· Sponsor youth sports programs on the Far Eastside, again to ensure more positive engaging and enriching opportunities for children, youth and families on the Far Eastside.
· Work with IPS to leverage underutilized facilities (i.e., John Marshall School) in support of increased opportunities for students and the community.
· Sponsor cultural and arts opportunities – that are either in the city or coming to the city – to provide performances on the Far Eastside.

Build Hope & Sustainability
· Implement a community-based workforce development program that connects employees to jobs that pay at least $15/hr. and provide full health insurance to those who successfully complete the credentialing program. Ensure this credentialing program is provided in a site on the Far Eastside.
· Provide incentives for local businesses to hire local residents, including identify the current baseline of local jobs available that pay at least $15/hr. and provide full health benefits, and work to double the number of opportunities for residents over the next 18 months.
· Create an incentive or tax programs to attract more/a supermarket to the area so that residents no longer have to live in a food dessert.

Improve Housing conditions
· Approve the demolition of all vacant housing stock apartment buildings.
· Double the number of beautification programs to engage residents in their local neighborhoods, such as community gardens and community arts projects.