KILLEEN, TX — Over the Christmas holiday, the Killeen Police Department responded to three shootings, resulting in one fatality and several injuries. Two of the three shootings happened within a few hours of each other.
The day after Christmas, a 5-year-old was injured and a 19-year-old was killed during a drive-by shooting, marking the 31st homicide in the city and a new record.
On Monday, the KPD Criminal Investigation Unit revealed all of the shootings to be gang-related.
“No matter what happens or what kind of disagreement anybody could have, a 5-year-old child being shot... there’s no excuse for it,” said Killeen Police Chief Charles Kimble.
One juvenile and six adults have been located and arrested in connection to the shootings.
“During the investigation, detectives uncovered seven firearms and narcotics in wholesale amounts. Some of the suspects also had outstanding warrants,” said Chief Kimble.
Chief Kimble said one of the guns used in the shooting was a stolen gun that was left inside the owner's vehicle. He urges gun owners to practice safe gun storage and make sure your vehicles are locked.
KPD identified the Young Paper Chasers (YPC) and K-Town Mafia (KTM) as the two gangs involved. Chief Kimble said there is a possibility they are responsible for other gun-related incidents across the city.
“We’re looking at other previous incidents and non-fatal shootings that have happened throughout Killeen over the last few months, and we strongly believe that these two rival gangs are involved," he said.
“We need the citizens in the community to work with us, to be good witnesses, to give us information, you know, to support us, like we have to do our due diligence and treat the citizens with respect and dignity they deserve,” said KPD Assistant Police Chief Jeff Donohue.
Chief Kimble and Assistant Chief Donohue say the community's help is always needed, especially because of the types of gangs they are dealing with. Authorities call them hybrid gangs, meaning there is no identifiable leader, making their investigations more complex.
“You can’t be everywhere all the time, so we try to use technology to support us. But again the community, we need to help us by giving us a call,” Assistant Chief Donohue said.
As of right now there are 28 unsolved homicide cases within the last three years. 2020 is far beyond the previous years for the number of homicides. Over half of the cases for this year are considered are criminal homicides.
Chief Kimble says he knows the numbers are high, but believes preventative measure can be taken.
“The numbers are high. They are tragic, I get it ,and sometimes we just can’t control human behavior, but what we can control are some crime prevention,” he said.
Chief Kimble says working with local organizations who have daily contact with the youth in the community are key to shrinking the homicide case counts and crime prevention.
“We can’t just depend on the police department to change our community. We can’t just depend on legislators to change our community. We have to stand up as men and women in our community and as parents in our community to say to my child I’m not allowing this for my child,” said Brian King with Brothers Against Community Crime.
The consecutive shootings led community leaders to hold a press conference calling out to the community to stop the violence. Community activist believe the solution starts at home.
“We've got to get our kids in line. We have to fix whatever this is because if not, they started a whole war, and police can’t stop this,” said local Andrea Hasberry.
Hasberry says it breaks her heart to see senseless violence in her community, and it hurts even more to know there are people who know something but don’t speak up.
“Some of these people will push the stuff underneath the rug that you know your child has a gun and you’re not saying anything about it or you’re not doing nothing about it. That’s the crazy part," she said.
King and his organization have been working within the community to combat violence, not just for himself but for the young children he holds close to his heart.
“I’m going to stand up for it because I have little kids. I have sons and a daughter and cousins that will be growing up in the same community, you know, so I will be less than a man not to stand up and say, "Man that ain’t right," or, "Come here let me show you a better way." Ain’t about pointing fingers. It’s about taking accountability," he said.
Although King and Hasberry have their own thoughts about what caused the initial shooting on Christmas Eve, they both agree saying nothing is just as bad as pulling the trigger.
“If I turn my blind eye to something that’s going on wrong, then I’m just as well as responsible as the person that did it,” said King.
“If we don’t say anything, it’s going to keep happening. You can throw it out there all you want to, but it’s going to keep going and keep going and keep going until there’s no more,” said Hasberry.
King says he knows there is some distrust within the community when it comes to police, but he hopes to be that bridge between law enforcement and everyday people so the police can close cases and locals can feel safe.
There have been seven arrests . The shootings remain under investigation. Anyone with information about any of these incidents are asked to call the police department or the Bell County Crime Stoppers at (254) 526-TIPS (8477).