Guns Almost Exclusively Weapon Of Choice: 2013 Review Of Local Homicides

By Jeff Neumeyer

December 31, 2013 Updated Dec 31, 2013 at 6:37 PM EDT

ALLEN COUNTY, Ind. (21ALIVE) --- 2013 will be remembered in Allen County as one of the most violent in our community’s history.

Indeed, we await a ruling in one death investigation that could set a new record.

In our year-end "crime review", the mayor of Fort Wayne shared his plans to attack the threat.

On New Year's Eve we count down to zero, but when it comes to homicides in Allen County this year, the numbers have been going the other way at an unsettling pace.

The official tally stands at 44, tying the record established back in 1997.

But that doesn't count the death of 51-year old Steven Turner, whose badly burned body was found in the trunk of a car set on fire and abandoned in some trees along Ferguson Road.

If a pathologist decides it was a case of homicide, a new mark will be set.

33 of the 44 slaying victims, 75 percent of the total, are African Americans.

The bodies of Terry Lagrone and Desiree Sheets were discovered in a burning home on Senate Avenue back in July, but a closer inspection revealed they'd been shot to death.

We spoke to a relative, disgusted with the killers, whoever they are.

"They not working and some don't wanna work, and if they know anyway they can rob you or take something, that's what they do" said Josa Lagrone, Terry Lagrone’s mother.

Four of the deaths this year were shootings of suspects where on-duty officers pulled the trigger.

In all, a gun was used in 41 of the 44 cases.

Those numbers do not surprise long-time Police Chief Rusty York, now taking over as the city’s Public Safety Director.

" Many times we're finding that not only the perpetrator of the shooting but the victim, as well, are armed, and usually with a stolen firearm," York said.

Mayor Tom Henry says turning this thing around is a long-term project, and we'll need to tap into the help of agencies like the Urban League, churches, and schools.

But he will play a major role in deciding whether to throw more tax dollars at the problem.

About 30 new officers are being hired, partly with monies from a local income tax hike.

The mayor says he's open to boosting the payroll even more.

" Adding police officers certainly I think will raise the comfort level of our citizens and it should, and it may have some criminals thinking twice, but a lot of criminals, they don't take that into consideration when they're going out to commit a crime, that's the furthest thing from their mind," Mayor Henry said.

Indeed, with criminal gangs warring over drug trafficking turf, it won't be easy to make the city's streets a whole lot safer in 2014.

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