Six shot as gunfire erupts at Wilmington corner

Gun violence has dropped considerably in Wilmington, once dubbed “Murder Town USA” by Newsweek. But with six shot Sunday in one blaze of gunfire, many are concerned.

Six people were shot Sunday night near the corner of 10th and Pine streets in Wilmington. (John Jankowski for WHYY)

Six people were shot Sunday night near the corner of 10th and Pine streets in Wilmington. (John Jankowski for WHYY)

Shootings in Wilmington remain far below record numbers of 2017, but six people were shot in one incident Sunday night, increasing concerns in the East Side neighborhood.

“It’s a lot of kids that live around here,’’ said resident Bob Jackson, who was shopping at Bill’s Deli Market at 10th and Pine streets, scene of the violence that erupted Sunday before dark near the corner of blocks of row homes. “I think don’t think it’s right that that s–t’s going on.”

Police haven’t revealed much about the 7 p.m. shootings, except to say in a Sunday night news release that the injuries to the six victims were not life-threatening. On Monday, police said the victims were all male. Three were 19 years old, and the others 17, 26 and 30. Two remain hospitalized in stable condition and the other four have been released.

“This remains an active and ongoing investigation and we will release further details when possible,’’ said David Karas, city police spokesman.

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With Sunday’s carnage, 32 people have now been shot this year in Wilmington. That’s higher than the 21 shot at this time last year but far below the 55 shot by April 7 of 2017 – the year a record 197 people were shot and 32 killed.

Chief Robert Tracy, who took the post in April 2017, has been credited for creating a strategy that cut the number of shootings citywide to 78 in 2018 – a nearly 60 percent drop. That success has led Mayor Mike Purzycki to often say the city is transitioning “from Murder Town to Turnaround Town.’’

The headline of a 2014 Newsweek article about Wilmington’s gun violence, among the highest per capita in America in recent years, had dubbed Delaware’s largest city “Murder Town.”

Tracy and Purzycki would not agree to interviews Monday.

Purzycki, however, issued a written statement expressing his “concern and disappointment’’ that multiple people were shot Sunday.

“We are grateful that there were not more serious injuries,’’ Purzycki said. “Chief Tracy and his team are investigating this incident and will release more information when additional facts become known. This is a complex case and we’ve got a lot of people working on it.

“This is the type of incident that you hope will be solved through trust and cooperation between the police and community. We’ve worked very hard to build goodwill on the streets and we have a safer city as a result. We need to stop this type of reckless behavior and together, I know we can.”

City Councilwoman Zanthia Oliver (City of Wilmington)

City Councilwoman Zanthia Oliver, who represents the area, said part of the blame lies with the corner market, whose employees allow dozens of people to gather in and around the store.

She said the operators need to call police to make the loiterers move away from the corner, so that residents can live in peace.

“They had 40 to 50 kids out there yesterday’’ before the shooting, said Oliver, noting that complaints about the store have been voiced at several community meetings. ‘It’s just a hang out.”

Oliver also urged police to be vehement about making loiterers move when they visit the corner. It that doesn’t succeed, perhaps the city should close the store.

“This is an enforcement issue,’’ she said. “Somebody is going to get killed.”

More than a dozen people congregated outside and inside the store Monday morning about 10:30 a.m. Several said they didn’t know anything about the shootings or were not from the area.

The clerk, who did not provide his name, said he was not working Sunday night but could not talk about the shootings or the store.

“We’re from Arizona,” said one young woman getting out of a car with two other women.

Benjamin Lolley, who heard the shots Sunday night, blames politicians for promising activities for resident but failing to deliver. (Cris Barrish/WHYY)

Across the street from the market, home health aide Benjamin Lolley sat outside on a folding chair with his two elderly clients.

He said he heard the gunshots Sunday night, and said the shooter ran from the corner down his block.

Lolley blames politicians for promising to help neighborhoods, but then abandoning them after election day.

“When I was coming up we had places to go,’’ the 62-year-old former painter said. “Give these kids something to do. We had activities, places to go.”

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