The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

Editorials

July 16, 2014

Scourge of Johnstown shootings needs community response

JOHNSTOWN — Johnstown police have charged three men in the brutal murder early Sunday of a city academy student.

We applaud the quick work of the law-enforcement officials, who on Monday made a public plea for information and by Tuesday had targeted three suspects.

Jaquan Watson, Fidel Lamar Cosby and Richard Cook are charged with criminal homicide in the shooting death of Tyrone Williams, 42, in the city’s Oakhurst section.

But despite the fast work to identify and arrest these suspects, we have a huge problem here in the once-Friendly City.

We are murdering each other.

We echo the message Moxham auto repair shop owner Stan Oliver posted on a sign outside his business:

“Please stop the killings.”

Johnstown has seen four homicides so far in 2014, on the heels of seven in 2013. That is terrifying and unacceptable.

This year’s tragic incidents include:

n Jan. 25: Jareek Adams, 27, was gunned down in a shooting that wounded his uncle, Jonathan Moore, 28. Earl P. Mitchell Jr., 20, was ordered to stand trial for Adams’ murder.

n March 30: Tony Phillips, 43, was shot dead outside Edder’s Den tavern. Joshua Nathaniel Cambric, 33; Keith Jerome Reed, 32; and Jeremy Travis Woodard, 34, face trial for criminal homicide.

n April 13: Zachary G. Andrews, 21, died of multiple gunshot wounds in a Grove Avenue house. No arrests have been made in the Greater Johnstown High School graduate’s death.

Then on Sunday, Williams was shot several times and was pronounced dead at the scene just after 3 a.m. at Grandinetti Avenue and Daniel Street.

Adams, Phillips and Williams were all slain in the Oakhurst area, and Andrews in Moxham – where Oliver’s sign pleads for an end to the chaos.

Earlier this year, the Johns-town Housing Authority installed cameras at the housing complex in Oakhurst.

Authority Vice Chairman Joseph Taranto hoped the cameras would serve as a “deterrent” to would-be criminals.

Three homicides later, two of them in Oakhurst, we can see that while cameras may help police with investigations after an incident, they haven’t stopped the violence in that area of the city.

This is a West End, Roxbury, Moxham, Hornerstown and downtown problem. And this is a problem for Westmont, Richland, Ferndale, Brownstown, Conemaugh and elsewhere in our region.

It’s time for the leaders of the community to come together and tackle this issue together.

We need individuals from law enforcement, politics, business, education and housing around a table of change, joined by representatives of our social services, courts, neighborhoods and churches.

We need to understand the cultural, economic and social factors at work in our midst – be they drugs, poverty and isolation; anger, recklessness and hopelessness.

We need to ask ourselves the hard questions, and demand of ourselves that we produce and act upon the answers.

Come motivated by whatever drives you: compassion, fear, civic pride. Concern for your safety, your business profits, your property values, your family’s welfare.

People outside Johnstown see this city as a shooting gallery of death and mayhem.

And it is.

Tyrone Williams was enrolled in the city’s police academy. He dreamed of helping people, of making a difference – before a bullet pierced his heart along a Johnstown street.

His call to duty now falls to those of us he leaves behind.

Do you want to make Johns-town a safer and better place?

Step forward.

The killings must stop.

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