Weekend shooting stirring concerns

Weekend shooting stirring concerns

March 30th, 2010 by Todd South in Politics Local

Standing just a few hundred feet from where weekend gunfire wounded five and sent crowds fleeing in panic from Coolidge Park, Mayor Ron Littlefield told reporters that, "It's time for this to stop."

Flanked by Police Chief Freeman Cooper, other city department heads and police, the mayor said the impromptu gathering of 200 to 250 people in the park started peacefully through text messaging and social media such as Facebook. Known as a "flash mob," the event ended in violence "because one person foolishly had a gun and decided to use it," he said.

At about 9:45 p.m. Saturday, as five police officers broke up a crowd of people that was getting rowdy, shots rang out on River Street, next to the park. Two adults and one juvenile were arrested and charged in the shooting that wounded three adults and two juveniles.

At the news conference, Chief Cooper said investigators do not believe this is a gang-related incident and he noted that this is only the third violent incident at the park in six years.

Police bike patrols and vehicle patrols in the downtown zone, which includes parts of the North Shore, including Coolidge Park, and the Riverfront, will increase to summertime numbers this weekend, he said. In the downtown zone, between six and eight officers patrol the area and more respond if there is a disturbance, he said.

Security cameras ring the park and evidence from those recordings will be used to prosecute suspects, officials said.

Staff Photo by Angela Lewis/Chattanooga Times Free Press Chattanooga police Lt. Eric Tucker, left, and Officer Benny Condra discuss the events Saturday night after a multiple shooting near Coolidge Park on Saturday.

Curt Lamberth, who manages Rock/Creek Down Under, located across from the park, said he's seen a buildup of crowds at the park and on the Walnut Street Bridge since last summer.

"It shifts," he said. "The scene here after closing hours and the sun goes down, you're kind of in some dark corners and you don't really trust it."

Emily Mitchell, who works at Sushi Nabe on River Street, said the owner ensures that employees have someone to walk them to their cars after closing time.

"I think it's fairly safe around here, but you always need to be cautious in any city," she said.

One problem beyond such gatherings is the prevalence of guns in crimes, Chief Cooper said. There isn't an easy solution to taking guns off the streets since they come from many sources -- stolen in burglaries, from parents in homes or purchased legally but used illegally.

This isn't the first "flash mob" seen in Chattanooga. Nearly a year ago, almost 1,000 students gathered at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga's Lupton Library, where music blared and people danced until, university police say, students rushed the building chanting, "Let us in! ... Take the library!" and threw items at police.

Students interviewed at the time disputed official versions of the event saying the crowd was between 200 and 300 and remained peaceful until police pepper-sprayed students. The event was billed as a Rave on social networking Web sites.

Staff Photo by Patrick Smith/Chattanooga Times Free Press Chattanooga Police Chief Freeman Cooper speaks during a news conference in Coolidge Park on Monday. At the event, Mayor Ron Littlefield called the altercation where five people were shot a "flash mob" incident.

On Monday, Mr. Littlefield remarked that flash mobs have occurred in other cities, originally as a fun way to get people to gather together, but Saturday night's incident "turned ugly."

The mayor said youths gathering for events isn't new, but with today's technology, those gatherings can take place much more quickly, which makes them harder to follow.

"It's often said that we can't arrest our way out of this problem, and that's true," the mayor said. "But don't make us try."

FLASH MOB

Impromptu gatherings that are initiated through text messaging and messages on such social media sites as Twitter and Facebook. Often the events are planned no more than a few hours before they happen.

During a "flash mob" event that drew 250 people Saturday night to Coolidge Park, five victims were shot three adults and two juveniles. Quincy Bell, 18, Kevin Tucker, 18, and Andreonna Buchanan, 18, were shot in the leg. The two juvenile victims names were not released. None of the injuries were life-threatening.

ARRESTS

Anthony Freison, 18, was charged with five counts of attempted first-degree murder, five counts of aggravated assault and one count of felony reckless endangerment.

Taurean Patillo was charged with five counts of conspiracy to commit first-degree murder and unlawful possession of a weapon.

A juvenile also was charged in the incident.

SHOOTINGS THIS YEAR

* Jan. 2 -- Body of Jimmy Yearby, 40, found in the middle of Sanders Road. He died of an apparent gunshot to the head.

* Jan. 3 -- Jeffrey Jones, 49, shot in the back at 952 N. Orchard Knob Ave. Kenneth L. Flint was charged with the shooting.

* Jan. 9 -- Jonathan Lawrence, 42, shot and killed while pumping gas at the Kanku's at 3440 Wilcox Blvd. Montez Davis was charged with first-degree murder, reckless endangerment and illegal possession of a firearm.

* Jan. 9 -- Inah Garner, 29, shot in the finger during the crossfire of another shooting Mr. Davis was involved in.

* Jan. 27 -- Glen Bailey, 21, shot twice by his girlfriend's brother while at 2008 Bennett Ave.

* Feb. 6 -- Terry Marshall, 39, shot in the chest at 1501 Roanoke Ave.

* Feb. 11 -- Darius Robinson, 21, shot in the leg while driving past the Kanku's on Wilcox Boulevard.

* Feb. 14 -- Gweniqua Strickland, 22, shot in the abdomen, arm and leg while on the couch inside the residence at 4115 Dorris St. Shots came from outside the residence.

* Feb. 21 -- Denzel Lloyd, 18, shot while walking to his car after a teen party at the Loose Cannon Art Galllery on 1900 Rossville Ave.

* Feb. 21 -- Minnie Moore, 77, grazed in the back and on her elbow by bullets that came from outside her home at 1900 Wilson St.

* Feb. 27 -- Terrance Etchison, 27, shot and killed at the Kanku's on Wilcox Boulevard.

* Feb. 27 -- Cecil Franklin Stodghill, shot while bartending at the L G Lounge at 830 Dodson Ave.

* March 13 -- Juvenile shot in the left side of the neck while seated in an SUV at 4600 Rogers Road.

* March 13 -- 16-year-old male shot in the lower left leg at 1941 Heaton St.

* March 26 -- Marquees McReynolds, 18, and a 15-year-old black male shot at 1953 Southern St.