In an emotional news conference on Monday, Killeen Councilmember Debbie Nash-King called for the end of gun violence in the city.
“My top priority today is to make Killeen a safer place for our residents, especially our senior citizens and our youth, and in order to accomplish this task we must continue to promote crime prevention,” Nash-King said at the steps of Killeen City Hall, following an opening prayer by Pastor Jimmy Towers of Lifeway Fellowship.
Nash-King called the 5 p.m. press conference, which was also attended by several city officials and by community leaders, in response to Saturday’s shooting death of Cadarian Connell Parker, 19, on Houston Street on Killeen’s north side, as well as the injuring of a 5-year-old child who was wounded in that same shooting.
“We stand before you in unity to send a strong message to our community that we hear you and we stand with you to stop the senseless killings in Killeen,” she said, speaking from a prepared statement.
Parker’s death is being treated as a murder investigation, according to the Killeen Police Department. The shooting brings Killeen’s 2020 homicide total to 31, surpassing the previous record set in 1991, when the Luby’s Cafeteria mass shooting took place.
After Nash-King, KPD Chief Charles Kimble was the first speaker at the press conference.
“It’s been a tough few days,” he said of the ongoing investigations his department is conducting, which involve several incidents that have taken place since Dec. 26.
Kimble said that the recent violence has stemmed from conflicts between two rival gangs — Young Paper Chasers and K-Town Mafia —which he described as “hybrid” in nature. He said six adults and one juvenile have been arrested in connection with the Sunday shooting that took place in the 2700 block of Alma Drive.
Kimble also said that Monday’s shooting in the area of Andover Drive was directly related to the Alma Drive shooting, where suspects tried to flee from police.
With respect to the Houston Street fatal shooting, Kimble said there is “no excuse” when a 5-year-old child is shot.
“It has to stop,” he said.
Kimble said that with respect to community policing, his department continues to work with crime prevention for youth and other related efforts.
“We try to look at root causes,” he said.
Kimble said that KPD is working with both state and federal authorities in the investigation, including the FBI and the U.S. Marshal’s Service’s Lone Star Fugitive Task Force, the former of which he said his officers are in touch with on a daily basis.
Kimble credits The Village United, a Killeen community organization, with helping in the investigation of the two rival gangs, which are locally based, as both they and KPD had some common information. He said that some of the suspects have invoked their constitutional right to remain silent.
Kimble said that promoting gun safety meaures, such as gun safes and locks, and most importantly not leaving guns in unlocked vehicles, are an important way for the community as a whole to help reduce gun related killings. He added that his department is looking at the possibility of gun buy-back programs.
KPD Assistant Chief Jeff Donahue clarified that though Killeen has 31 homicides so far for 2020, five of those are not criminal in nature (i.e. self-defense, accidental, age of offender).
Killeen is a city of about 150,000 residents. By comparison, Austin, a city of nearly 1 million residents, had 45 homicides as of Dec. 19.
Bryan King, president of Brothers Against Community Crime, spoke at the event.
“It starts with us being parents,” King said, adding that education is important as well. “Without hope, you have no change. When we don’t stand against something, you allow it to happen.”
Angenet Wilkerson of The Village United said that her organization is “about restoring community.”
“You can join us,” she said at the event.