Gun violence isn’t going to be tolerated and the “full weight of the justice system” will be deployed to punish shooters, Columbus Police Chief Fred Shelton said during a Thursday afternoon press conference.
The event, heavily attended by CPD command staff and investigators, as well as city officials, was called in the wake of several recent shootings in which multiple vehicles were hit and one person sent to the hospital. The first was Dec. 28 at about 2 p.m. outside a strip mall in the 900 block of Alabama Street, where about five vehicles were hit and 30 to 35 9-millimeter shell casings were recovered. The second was Wednesday at Sixth Street and Sixth Avenue South at about 3 p.m., in which multiple vehicles were hit and about 20 casings, 9-millimeter and .40-caliber, were recovered.
No one has been arrested in either incident.
Weapons with 50- and 100-round drums, including AK-47s and AR-15s, are being seized from other crime scenes, Shelton said. Many of the guns used in these shootings are stolen.
“The bad guys are not buying them. They are stealing them and then using them in the commission of a crime,” Shelton said.
The shootings are not random, said Criminal Investigation Division Capt. Rick Jones, and the shooting in East Columbus was believed to be “retaliatory” and “involved other illegal activity.”
“There were multiple people hanging out in the area (of these shootings) and we need someone to come forward,” Jones said. “We want a good quality of life, and people shouldn’t be held captive in their own community.”
Technology has been a big help in identifying suspects, Shelton said.
“Last year we entered into a partnership with Ring Cameras, and we hope that footage will help us identify a suspect leaving the scene (of the Wednesday shooting),” Shelton said.
Cameras can’t do it all, though, he said. Once an arrest is made, evidence and testimony are needed for a conviction.
“It’s one thing to charge somebody, and it’s another to prosecute them and put them in jail,” Shelton said. “We have to go to court and present evidence to get a conviction. That’s where we need the public’s help.”
People can submit information via Golden Triangle Crime Stoppers, the P3 smartphone app, or even the city’s SeeClickFix app, Shelton said. CPD will protect witnesses’ identities to the greatest extent possible.
“People are concerned that if they call 911 their name is going to go across the scanner,” Shelton said. “Several years ago, we fixed that. Their name and address will not be broadcast over the scanner. We just need the information, however they want to get it to us. It can be completely anonymous.”
People are often afraid of retaliation, he said.
“The bad people threaten somebody who could be a witness against them,” Shelton said. “If somebody threatens you, that is a felony crime. They can receive up to 10 years in prison.”
Police “need a voice, not a piece of paper” when prosecuting major crimes, Shelton said.
“The more information we get, the more evidence we get, the less likely we will have to call (a witness) to court,” he said. “But when we need them, we really need them. We will do everything we can to protect their identity.”