Community works to end killing

Religious leaders, residents look to help solve murders

Tribune Chronicle / R. Michael Semple William Williams Sr. said he’s frustrated about the lack of information he’s gotten from police about the Aug. 19, 2017, shooting death of his son, William Williams Jr., 19, in a field in the 2400 block of Northwest Boulevard NW.

WARREN — Police, community members and religious leaders fed up with violence in Warren are partnering to find ways to stop the killing and solve unsolved homicides in the city.

In recent weeks, family members of homicide victims and members of the Trumbull County Interdenominational Ministerial Alliance have met separately with police captains and detectives to find ways to end the cycle of violence.

“We want to help,” said community activist Honeya Price. “We are not here to do the police job of investigating crimes. We do want our neighborhoods safer, so we’re asking what people in the community can do.”

There have been 41 homicides in Warren since 2013, according to police statistics. Of those, 18 remain open, meaning no one has been charged in connection with the crimes.

Warren detective Wayne Mackey said the department takes every homicide investigation seriously and is working to solve them.

“We do not close murder investigations,” Mackey said. “They remain open and on our desks, so they always are on top of our minds. We see the files every day. Phone calls and leads are followed up whenever something new is discovered.”

A problem, however, is it’s becoming harder and harder to get witnesses to step forward, Mackey said.

“We have, for example, a 2017 murder investigation in which a young woman was shot and neither of the two surviving victims will provide statements,” he said. “We have cases that we know who committed the crimes, but we don’t have sufficient evidence to prosecute.”

And, Mackey said, police should not and cannot take a homicide investigation to prosecutors until they have all possible evidence available.

“We do not get a second chance at a trial if we fail to get a conviction due to not having sufficient evidence,” Mackey said. “So we don’t want some evidence — we want all available evidence.”

There were four homicides each in 2014 and 2015 in Warren, and because of the help of witnesses, police were able to build a case to present to prosecutors.

In 2016 and 2017, 12 of the 17 homicides in Warren remain open. The other five investigations resulted in convictions.

“We are doing everything we can to solve these crimes. We, like the families, want the killers off the streets and in prison,” Mackey said.

Price and Lisa Hill, whose nephew’s shooting death remains unsolved, said there are those in the public who may want to help, but fear retaliation.

“There needs to be some place people can be sent to when they step forward,” Hill said. Her nephew, William Williams Jr., 19, was found Aug. 19, 2017, shot to death in a field in the 2400 block of Northwest Boulevard NW.

His father, William Williams Sr., said he’s frustrated about the lack of information he’s gotten from police.

“I’ve not been told anything since shortly after we were told about his death,” Williams Sr. said. “Nobody seems to know anything. It hurts.”

Police said they understand the frustration.

“We try to keep families informed when there is a development that matters to the investigation,” Mackey said. “Families can designate someone to call the lead investigative officer for an update.”

“We will call them back,” Mackey said.

The Rev. Joe Walker, ministerial alliance president and pastor at Restoration Christian Fellowship Church on Main Avenue SW, said the group was contacted by police last month.

“This is an issue impacting all of our churches,” Walker said. “It is impacting all of our members and their families. We are burying the victims and dealing with the aftermath.”

The ministerial alliance typically consists of 14 church leaders from across the city. However, with this issue, 23 churches are working together to help find solutions.

The group plans to organize at least one forum to discuss violence and other issues.

“We hope to open dialogues between those in the community, our churches and law enforcement,” Walker said. “I have not seen, in this community, the kind of distrust between citizens and the police that has been seen in other cities.”

“However, there is a loyalty to the streets,” he said. “People have to decide between telling what they know to make their neighborhoods safer and turning in their sons or daughters, brothers or sisters or other persons they are close to.”