After violent week, police plead for witnesses to come forward

Police document the scene where a man was shot and killed on Thanksgiving day off of 37th Street in Alton Park.

Shooting victims this week

Friday — Desmond Benson, 34, was shot on Cherryton Drive and is listed in critical condition. No suspect information is available.Thursday — Darrel Jones, 43, was killed near the intersection of Central Avenue and 37th Street. Witnesses declined to cooperate, police said.Thursday — Christina Strickland, 35, suffered a non-life-threatening injury to the ankle from gunfire. She was unable to provide suspect information or incident location to police.Tuesday — Monica McMillon, 37, was killed in her home on Highland Avenue in a drive-by shooting. No suspect information was provided to police, they said.Tuesday — Jasmine Pritchett, 23, and Devontae Billingsley, 20, suffered from non-life-threatening injuries from gunfire on Holtzclaw Avenue. Pritchett was shot in the arm and Billingsley was shot in the head. Both told police they didn’t see anything, a police spokesman said.Tuesday — Darrius Starling, 24, suffered from non-life-threatening injuries when he was shot at Miller Park. Anthony Thomas, 47, has been arrested and charged with attempted first-degree murder.Sunday — Deonte James, 21, suffered from non-life-threatening injuries at the 3200 block of Wilcox Boulevard. No suspect information is available.

Chattanooga police Chief of Staff David Roddy stood alongside eight weary-eyed police officers who spent Thanksgiving tracking down leads during an especially violent week in Chattanooga.

"We know for a fact there have been witnesses for these crimes," Roddy said Friday, addressing the TV cameras and reporters in the room, using them as proxies to hopefully reach someone, anyone in the public who might know something about the shootings that occurred this week. "We know members of our community either have information that would help us, or actually witnessed the crimes themselves. We need those individuals to stand up and speak out," he said.

He slowly emphasized each word of the next sentence. "Tell us what occurred. I have two people that will not get to spend Christmas with their families this year. We don't believe that it's right for those criminals to be able to spend Christmas at home."

Monica McMillon, a 37-year-old single mother, was killed Tuesday in a drive-by shooting at her Highland Avenue home while her kids were watching a movie upstairs.

A few years ago, Monica's cousin was also killed, her sister, Amanda Crowder, said. Monica's family sat down with the Times Free Press after Monica was killed, and said they don't expect the violence to stop.

"We're not going to be the last family to bury a loved one," Crowder said after her sister was killed.

photo Police document the scene where a man was shot and killed on Thanksgiving day off of 37th Street in Alton Park.

And, this week, they weren't.

A few blocks east at the intersection of Central Avenue and East 37th Street, a family member found 43-year-old Darrel Jones dead in the street from gunshot wounds Thanksgiving afternoon.

Then, at 2 a.m. Friday on Cherryton Drive, police found 34-year-old Desmond Benson suffering from a single gunshot wound. He was rushed to a local hospital and is in critical condition, police said.

No suspect information has been released and no arrests made in the shootings.

And those aren't the only victims of gun violence this week in Chattanooga. Since Sunday, five other people sustained non-life-threatening gunshot wounds.

Roddy said police are working under the assumption some of the shootings this week are connected. He declined to say which ones because police do not have all the information they need yet.

Earlier this week, Anthony Thomas was arrested and charged with attempted first-degree murder in the Tuesday shooting of Darrius Starling in Miller Park downtown.

Besides that, no one has been arrested in any of the other seven cases. Furthermore, in none of the seven instances in which someone was shot this week have police provided suspect information.

Why? There are a variety of reasons. In some of the cases, police are given information and they have to go through the leads they receive and decipher which ones are accurate. Roddy said police are trying to locate a few people of interest.

However, in most of this week's shootings, witnesses have refused to cooperate with police, they said. Following the Jones shooting Thursday, police said, "witnesses to the incident declined to cooperate with the investigation."

That is the most frustrating part for Roddy and the other officers.

"It's not a single piece of the puzzle that's going to put all this together," he said. "But there are larger pieces that we are in need of. One of those larger pieces is a cooperation from members of the community that have seen these acts and are willing to come forward and talk to us."

Contact staff writer Evan Hoopfer at or @EvanHoopfer on Twitter or 423-757-6731.