Meetings of the Champaign Community Coalition include regular reports from local police departments. And at Wednesday’s meeting, those reports were dominated by reports of shootings.
“I think it’s fair to say that it’s been a sad and busy couple of weeks, leading up to today,” said Champaign County Sheriff Dustin Heuerman, addressing the gathering local officials and interested residents at the Holiday Inn conference center in Champaign.
Heuerman referred to the several shooting incidents that he and other law enforcement officers listed in their reports, a regular feature of the Champaign Community Coalition’s monthly meetings.
Shootings reported since the last meeting included those where no one was injured, at least no one who stayed around to talk to police. Others only caused property damage. But there were more serious incidents.
June 11 Shootings in Champaign
In Champaign, the worst day was June 11, where when two serious incidents occurred in the early morning hours. An altercation outside a downtown bar left a young woman shot in the arm and a young man with a serious stab wound. Two arrests have been made in connection with the incident.
But police are still looking for suspects in the other incident, which occurred amidst a crowd of more than 200 during a pop-up party near Douglass Park. Shots were fired, injuring four people, one critically. Others were injured — one of them also critically — in accidents that occurred as people drove away to escape the gunshots.
Champaign Deputy Police Chief Geoff Coon says they’ve logged dozens of reports in their investigation of the Douglass Park incident. But so far, no suspects have been identified.
“I did talk to one detective, been here longer than I have, probably 26 years,” said Coon. “He says it’s probably one of the most chaotic scenes he’s ever been on.”
Community Meeting Planned In Douglass Park
While the investigation continues, the city of Champaign is holding a community meeting for Douglass Park neighborhood residents, Thursday, June 15 at 6 PM at the Douglass Annex. Champaign Community Relations Manager Tracy Parsons says such meetings are part of the city’s Community Violence Reduction Blueprint, a strategy for addressing violent incidents.
“These are informational meetings that bring the community together,” Parsons told the Community Coalition audience. “This cannot be solved by law enforcement alone”.
Rantoul Police were not present at the meeting, so there was no direct report from them on recent shooting incidents in that community, including the officer-involved fatal shooting of 18-year-old Jordan Richardson on June 7, and the rifle shots fired at an outdoor vigil for Richardson the following day.
Sheriff Heuerman pointed out that his deputies were on the scene to help deal with the incidents in Rantoul. He says area police departments are frequently called to provide assistance for their neighbors, “because we simply don’t have enough officers in our individual departments to handle calls like that”.
It was U of I police who responded to the area’s most recent shooting incident, occurring early Wednesday in the parking lot of Merry-Ann’s Diner on South Neil Street in Champaign. That’s because Champaign Police, facing a staff shortage, have arranged to have U of I Police patrol the city’s Campustown area.
U of I Police Chief Alice Cary says a single victim suffered non-life-threatening injuries in that incident.
Deputy Chief Coon says his department is getting ready to launch a major recruitment campaign, designed with help from a consultant.
In the meantime, Champaign Police will be a presence at public gatherings during the upcoming Juneteenth holiday weekend — perhaps in greater numbers than usual, in light of recent shootings.
“Dependent on the holiday, sometimes we’ll increase staffing when we can,” said Coon. “But that’s not always the circumstance. We just try to focus our efforts to be present, to act as a deterrent when possible.”