Words, not bullets

Words, not bullets

March 7th, 2010 by Todd South in News

Staff photo by Allison Kwesell/Chattanooga Times Free Press Robert Schreane, president of North Brainerd Community Council, talks about the recent shootings at Kanku's gas station during a North Brainerd Community Council meeting at the Brainerd Recreation Center.

Staff photo by Allison Kwesell/Chattanooga Times Free Press Robert...

A community meeting to talk about stopping violence around the Wilcox Boulevard Kanku's convenience store fizzled Saturday when the store owners didn't appear.

Shankao Chaudhari said neither he nor his nephew, who co-owns the store, were contacted by the North Brainerd Community Council for a meeting. He said he would be open to meeting with community leaders to try and improve safety in the area.

"My family works at the store. This is for them, too," he said. "We all have a bottom goal of making the community safer."

Two people have died in recent shootings at the Wilcox Boulevard Kanku's, sparking a flurry of meetings last week.

Leaders point to increasing security at the store as one short-term solution. Others say it will take a combined effort by property owners, government officials, police, churches and schools to attack the root causes of young men doing violence to each other.

But first, city leaders, police, business owners and residents need to focus in the same direction, Robert Schreane, chairman of the North Brainerd Community Council, said during Saturday's meeting at the Brainerd Recreation Center.

Enforcing codes on business and property owners to clean up blight, such as empty buildings with boarded-up windows and trash-strewn vacant lots, would be a good start, he said.

On Thursday, City Councilmen Peter Murphy and Russell Gilbert and city police Sgt. Todd Royval met with the Kanku's owners, who agreed to have security on duty seven days a week with an extra officer after 6 p.m. Thursday through Saturday.

Assistant Police Chief Mike Williams said the station is in Delta Zone, which has between eight and 10 officers on peak shifts. Police said they cannot station officers at the store but use crime suppression units and saturation patrols to keep a lid on violence.

Sgt. Royval said the crime suppression unit had identified trends in the area six months ago and had taken in gang members in a series of operations. But police action alone won't solve the problems, he said.


* June 2005 -- Despite a neighborhood petition, the Chattanooga City Council OKs zoning for the Kanku's on Wilcox Boulevard. Petitioners say the area is crime-ridden and underpoliced. They argue having a convenience store selling beer will only make things worse.

* January 2009 -- Police are present when a black Hummer speeds into the Kanku's parking lot and several young men begin yelling and flashing gang signs at patrons. Officers put down a disorder and find open alcohol, a pistol and bags of marijuana in the Hummer.

* July 30, 2009 -- Anthony Blocker, 28, is shot in the chest outside the Kanku's about 5:30 p.m.

* Jan. 9 -- Jonathan Lawrence is fatally shot. Montez Davis -- whom police call "a validated gang member" -- is charged with first-degree murder.

* Feb. 27 -- Terrance Etchison is fatally shot in the parking lot. Jamaal Byrd is charged with first-degree murder.

Source: Newspaper archives

"Crime kind of moves, it'll hit hot spots all over the city," Sgt. Royval said.

He said the Tunnel and Wilcox boulevards intersection and the surrounding blocks are in gang territories where rival members often will cross paths, resulting in violence. He wouldn't name the gangs, saying it might spark competition to be recognized.

But without community involvement, police have little information to work with, he said.

"We might drive by a house 17 times in a week and we don't know that's a particular house that sells drugs," the sergeant said.

"But the people living nearby see it," he said. "And when a shooting happens they say, 'Why didn't you guys see this, you know they were selling drugs there?' but we didn't because we're not there 24/7 like they are."

On Friday, Hamilton County Commissioner Greg Beck held a rally across the street from Kanku's to highlight violence in the area and call for a "cease-fire."