Residents say shootings have paralyzed their neighborhoods as Chattanooga vows to put an end to the violence

Gloria Shepherd talks about recent shootings from a home near Clifton Hills Elementary School after a car backfiring resulted in a shots fired call on Wednesday, April 20, 2016, after a wave of gang violence in Chattanooga, Tenn.


Does not include accidental, self-inflicted or justified shootings2016: 382015: 312013: 41Source: Chattanooga Police Department


Does not include accidental, self-inflicted or justified shootings2015 : 1172014: 1052013: 110Source: Chattanooga Police Department


APRIL 161:30 a.m.: 25-year-old on O’Rear Street1:03 p.m.: 23-year-old injured on Taylor Street2:04 p.m.: 18-year-old injured on Fourth AvenueAPRIL 1712:15 p.m.: 52-year-old injured on South Seminole StreetAPRIL 1812:20 a.m.: 16-year-old injured on Oakwood Drive12:15 p.m.: 17-year-old killed on Seventh Avenue9:10 p.m.: 24-year-old injured on Arlington AvenueAPRIL 1910:21 a.m.: 26-year-old and 27-year-old injured on Grove Street3:08 p.m.: 20-year-old injured on Biltmore Drive11:44 p.m.: 22-year-old injured on East Third StreetAPRIL 212:45 p.m. 46-year-old injured on Highway 58APRIL 221 a.m.: 38-year-old injured on Wimberly Drive

Marie McCallie scrutinizes every car that rolls down her street.

She tenses, sitting on her porch, and stares.

How many people are in the car?

Are the windows down?

Is anyone hanging out the sides?

How fast is it moving?

If it feels wrong, she runs. Or ducks. Or hides behind the thick columns of her porch. Her neighbor, a few doors down, used to let her own grandchildren play in the church parking lot up the street. But now they're only allowed to go as far as a yard next door.

"At least here they have some cover," the neighbor said, pointing to a few small embankments.

She was too scared to give her name.

Last Saturday, she was sitting on her porch with a friend at two in the afternoon, grandkids playing in the side yard, when two men standing close to a nearby car opened fire on an 18-year-old walking a dog.

One man fired first. Boom, boom, boom, boom. And when his weapon was empty, the second man fired. That gun sounded bigger.

"It rocked the walls," the woman said.

They ran inside, called 911. Heard 20 or 30 shots.

And they realized the men were shooting right into the church parking lot where the kids usually play.

"You're scared to walk outside, to send your kids to the school, to the bus stop," she said. "It's not fair to them to be stuck up in the home all summer long with the door closed because you're too scared to have the door open."

Twelve shootings in seven days set Chattanooga on edge last week. A 17-year-old was killed and 12 other people were wounded, including two women who were pregnant. At least seven of the shootings were motivated by an ongoing gang dispute, police have said.

Gunfire erupted in yards, homes and streets. A shot fired at a fast food restaurant grazed a bystander at a grocery store nearby. Someone pulled the trigger from within a funeral procession for a man who'd been shot and killed.

The intensity and frequency of the violence seemed to startle the city, and as the week wore on, the fear of violence crept out of its usual inner-city haunts and spread wider through Chattanooga.

"It's crazy how many shootings Chattanooga has had in the past week," one man wrote on Facebook. "The world has gone to hell! I carry my .40 everywhere I go."

"God I'm on bended knees pleading please give us our city back and please stop the violence in Chattanooga amen," another woman posted.

"Chattanoogans, comfort our youth," one woman wrote.

Police typically receive five or six calls reporting gunfire each day. Last Saturday, that spiked to 15. And on Monday, to 13.

Each shot fired disrupts the lives of those who hear it, even if no one is hurt or killed, neighbors said. One man, who did not want to be identified, was working in his carport near Glass Street when he heard shots last Saturday.

"I got to know my grass real well," he said.


On Tuesday, Police Chief Fred Fletcher said gang members told his officers there weren't enough police to stop the shootings. We have more shooters than you have officers, they said.

Fletcher promised to prove them wrong.

Police took extra measures all week to try to slow the pace of the violence. Fletcher sent extra officers to at-risk areas and pulled manpower from other divisions to bolster CPD's street presence. He canceled an in-service training class and sent those 25 officers back out. He reworked some officers' scheduled days off, and other officers clocked overtime.

The pace of the shootings did slow - three on Tuesday, none on Wednesday, one on Thursday, one on Friday.

But by the end of the week, police had arrested suspects in only three of the week's 12 shootings, records show.

Fletcher acknowledged those arrests may not be enough to dissuade would-be shooters.

"No, I don't think it will get the message through, which is why we want to arrest every single gang member we can," he said. "It needs to be a much stronger message than that. And we've arrested dozens in the last two days."

Police said they had arrested 41 people between Monday and Friday in specific attempts to stem the ongoing violence. At least 20 of those arrested are gang members.

The department declined to release the names because of pending cases, but charges range from minor traffic violations to attempted first-degree murder. Investigators also have identified suspects in multiple other shootings, according to police.

Fletcher said he expects to continue the focus on the shootings at least through the end of this week, and perhaps through the weekend.

"We'll do as much as we can, in as many places as we can, for as long as we can," he said. "Our officers are as sick of it as anybody. And they're absolutely committed to making the changes necessary to protect our community."

Multiple agencies are working with police, including the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation and the Federal Bureau of Investigation. On Friday, Mayor Andy Berke also offered some help, announcing two new anti-violence measures.

He promised to expedite the purchase of a ballistics system that can be used to match particular shell casings to particular guns, a move he hopes will better equip the police department to build cases and pull illegal guns off the streets. Police had already requested funding for the system in next year's budget, but the mayor's pledge should speed up the purchase, which will cost between $120,000 and $135,000.

Berke also said he will create a new group called the Citizen Safety Coalition to connect citizens who want to help with opportunities to do so, and increase outreach to young people.

He said he understands why citizens are afraid.

"First, I understand the emotion that is driving some of that fear," Berke said. "We've seen violence that has disturbed everyone in our community. It's understandable to have a reaction to that. The second part, though, is that we will deal with the problems that we see. Our community cannot and will not let this continue."


Eleven bullet holes dot the home on Seventh Avenue where 17-year-old LaDarious Bush was shot to death Monday. One bullet went through the front door, and two through a window into the bedroom where LaDarious was struck.

Police say LaDarious was killed as retaliation for the April 10 slaying of 22-year-old Robert Jackson, a rival gang member. LaDarious was the son of a well-known gang leader who is serving a life sentence in federal prison, and police say his death inflamed a long-simmering dispute.

The 17-year-old's friends and family who gathered at the home Thursday preferred to remember him differently - as an outgoing, quick-to-laugh teenager who was thrilled to find out his girlfriend was pregnant with a boy.

LaDarious' father has been locked up since LaDarious was 8. His older brother, Aundre Bush, was killed when he was 19, leaving behind a 1-year-old son. And now LaDarious will never know his own son.

Ever since the shooting, LaDarious' girlfriend has been sleeping in the bed where he was shot, not willing to let go.

Contact staff writer Shelly Bradbury at 423-757-6525 or with tips or story ideas. Follow @ShellyBradbury.

Violent attacks since April 17