GRPD to up downtown patrols after violence

Gunfire on Ionia Avenue wounded two teenagers. (June 18, 2014)

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Police say they will up patrols and aggressively pursue suspects after three incidents of violence in downtown Grand Rapids this week.

Two teens — ages 16 and 17 — were shot on Ionia Avenue SW near Fulton Street in downtown Grand Rapids not long after midnight Wednesday. The area is home to several bars and restaurants.

“I heard two bang bangs and looked out the window and there was somebody on the ground bleeding, which is obviously very startling when you live on a street like Ionia,” said Marty Brooks, who was nearby when the shootings took place.

One of the teens was critically wounded, but stabilized as the day wore on. Both are expected to survive.

But the incident, along with others in recent days, raised concerns about the safety of the bar and retail district downtown.

“They don’t know what they’re doing. They’re just shooting randomly,” said a man who works downtown and asked not to be identified. “Innocent people can get caught in the crossfire.”

But Grand Rapids police say the recent incidents don’t appear to be connected. They say major violence in the area is down over the past several years.

Area business owners say keeping downtown safe is the key to keeping it alive and vibrant.

Georgio’s Pizza near the scene of the shooting said it hasn’t seen a dip in business, but owners say more incidents could change that. Assistant Manager Ashley Cabral said police response is key to calming customers’ concerns.

“We were startled but we just sat there. Police came pretty quickly,” Cabral said.

Forrest Page witnessed the aftermath of the shootings and said they won’t stop him from going downtown.

“Absolutely not,” he said.

Wednesday evening, people gathered downtown at Rosa Parks Circle — where police were called at least four times Tuesday evening for disturbances — to enjoy the Blues on the Mall music event.

Blues on the Mall. (June 18, 2014)
(Blues on the Mall.)

Marcus Bradman, who helped put on the event, said Blues on the Mall did not feel it was necessary to amp up security. He said he had a conversation with GRPD Wednesday morning after hearing about the teens being shot.

“In light of things that went on last night, I thought it was good to talk to the police department and say, ‘Hey, is there anything we should be aware of or concerned of about that?’ And they said no,” he said.

But GRPD decided to increase its presence as a precaution. Four officers patrolled the area along with event security.

People who came to listen to the music said they weren’t deterred by the recent incidents downtown.

“We’ve seen some security coming through. We feel perfectly safe here. It’s a great event,” concert-goer Anita Shepard said.

Bonnie Platz lives in Grand Rapids and has been watching the news, but said the recent small spike hasn’t affected her decisions to get out around town.

“Crime happens everywhere,” she said. “You can’t stop. You can’t live in fear.”

There is speculation that the midnight shootings may be connected to a fight earlier in the evening near in the area of Fulton Street and Ionia Avenue SW.

Anyone with information about either incident is asked to call GRPD at 616.456.3400 or Silent Observer at 616.774.2345.

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