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Editorial: Speak up to dodge deadly fire

Todd Bullard awoke around 2 a.m. Sunday morning to a series of pops like a string of firecrackers. He peeked out the bedroom window of his home on Jefferson Park Avenue to find the parking lot of the Fry’s Spring Beach Club filled with cars and the air filled with bullets.

“The gunfire lasted between one and two minutes,” said Bullard, a retired architect.

Bursts of cartridges alternated with individual shots in a pattern that left Bullard wondering how many rounds had been fired. It was 120, police would later report, from five different caliber weapons, including 27 shots from a rifle.

If you know something, say something. This must be the reaction of area residents to a gunfight that wounded two people near the beach club in Charlottesville in the wee hours Sunday.

Police forensic personnel spent at least eight hours combing the Fry’s Spring parking lot for evidence at the scene of what this area has to make an intolerable crime. A few shots, maybe even a few dozen, indicates a targeted attack. Cartridge casings from 120 shots signals a gun battle fought with high-powered weapons wielded by thugs so clueless they don’t care who they kill or wound.

None of us is safe until police get these miscreants off the streets. So speak up.

Charlottesville police were scheduled to meet Monday night with people from the Fry’s Spring club. Subsequent meetings are likely to be held with people living in the surrounding neighborhood and representatives of Peace in the Streets, a nonprofit group that includes some ex-gang members and which intervenes to stop gang violence before it happens.

Police mistakenly said Sunday morning’s beach club get-together was sponsored by Peace in the Streets. The department later issued an apology. Police explained that the event was private. Peace in the Streets was slated to benefit from fundraising conducted there. The group had filed an application with the Virginia Alcohol Beverage Control Board for the gathering, police said.

Peace in the Streets criticized police for the mistake in a Sunday Facebook post. It simultaneously decried a “senseless act of violence.”

“Thanks to the Fry’s Spring community for allowing a fundraiser so proceeds could be donated to our organization. To the Charlottesville Police Department, before you post an article attempting to slander our GOOD name, please make sure you have the correct information,” the group said. “Also, thanks to everyone else who have been so supportive of our movement. Although last night’s incidents took place after the fundraiser was packed up and well over, we heavily value the safety of our community and it saddens us to hear of individuals being injured by methods that we vowed to change in our community …”

Gathering facts remains critical. This is where the community must contribute its collective knowledge. Holding criminals to account in this case offers our best shot at short-circuiting more potentially deadly behavior.

Families living in the Fry’s Spring neighborhood feel shell-shocked. On Dec. 15, the thud of something striking an outside wall of Bullard’s house startled him awake. Police would later find five cartridge casings about 150 yards from Bullard’s residence. Bullard would find a golf ball-sized divot in the brick exterior of the home he shares with his wife and three of his seven children.

That episode troubled Bullard. “You wonder if you’ve been targeted,” he said.

It appears he was not targeted in the wee hours Sunday, but the thugs across the street clearly didn’t care if he got hurt.

Anyone not dedicated to solving this and other cases of crazed violence by gun-toting fools should look at Norfolk 24 hours before the Charlottesville insanity. In Norfolk, two people got caught in the crossfire of angry rivals outside a nightclub. Both died. One was Virginian-Pilot reporter Sierra Jenkins. Jenkins, a promising young journalist, had recently moved out of her parents’ home in Virginia Beach and into her first apartment. She had just turned 25.

Jenkins’ killing and the weekend just concluded in Charlottesville each teach the same ominous lesson.

Until we stop the shooting, nobody is safe.


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