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Champaign Leaders Call For End To Gun Violence

Champaign Mayor Deborah Frank Feinen speaks at a news conference held in the city council chamber. Police Chief Anthony Cobb stands in back.

CHAMPAIGN – Champaign community leaders called for an end to gun violence Friday, a day when three more people were injured by gunfire in the city.

“The gun violence has to stop,” said Mayor Deborah Frank Feinen at a city hall news conference, where she was joined by Police Chief Anthony Cobb and two other community leaders.

Champaign Police Chief Anthony Cobb noted that the number of gunfire incidents reported to city police was up 113% for the year so far, compared to the same time in 2020.

“While we have made several positive gun related arrests in the past few weeks, the problem remains evident, by multiple individuals struck by gunfire this week alone, including three victims today,” said Cobb.

The three victims were two men, ages 19 and 28, who were injured in a drive-by shooting early Friday at a parking lot in the 50 block of East Main Street in downtown Champaign, and a 33-year-old pregnant woman who was shot Friday afternoon near the 2400 block of West Springfield Avenue. Police describe the injuries to the two men as not life-threatening. The woman was reported to be hospitalized in stable condition, even after her vehicle was involved in a traffic accident on the way to the hospital. A warrant has been issued for 23-year-old Desmond Godbolt in connection with her shooting.

The downtown shooting was in contrast to previous shootings that have mostly occurred in low-income neighborhoods. Feinen said city staff had established a team to address safety in Champaign, that was working on plans specifically for the downtown area. But she said plans were also being developed for all parts of the city.

“I’m concerned about people feeling unsafe in any area of our city,” said Feinen.

The mayor and police chief were joined by Rev. Willie Comer of East Central Illinois Youth For Christ, who called on those tempted to resort to violence to come to him to talk over their problems.

“Whatever the beef is, we can get through it,” said Comer, “but we can’t get through it with bullets flying and hitting innocent people.”

Comer invited anyone with a problem to come to the Youth For Christ office at 603 West University Avenue, across from Champaign Central High School.

Angela Worthey made a similar invitation. Her organization, HV Neighborhood Transformation, has a storefront office at 116 West Main Street in downtown Urbana.

“Please y’all, it is time for the death and the destruction to stop,” said Worthey. “It is time for us to start having conversations that bring healing amongst families, healing in our own community. It is time for leave a better world for our children.”

Cobb asked for anyone with information about a shooting to contact police or “a trusted community leader” or Champaign County Crime Stoppers, which accepts anonymous tips about crimes.

“The individuals who are shooting, they live here,” said Cobb. “We know who they are. The community knows who they are. Are we going to allow them to continue to victimize our entire community? I hope the resounding answer from my community is no.”

The police chief said the string of shootings in Champaign creates trauma for bystanders and friends and loved ones of the victims. And he said it’s taking a toll on his officers as well.

“Increasingly, our officers are finding themselves in close proximity of these shootings or gunfire,” said Cobb. “And I’m concerned that our officers will be faced with a deadly use-of-force decision.”

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Jim Meadows

Jim Meadows has been covering local news for WILL Radio since 2000, with occasional periods as local host for Morning Edition and All Things Considered and a stint hosting WILL's old Focus talk show. He was previously a reporter at public radio station WCBU in Peoria.

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