Family Of Kalamazoo Fourth of July Shooting Call It Community Terrorism

Posted at 10:23 PM, Jul 09, 2013
and last updated 2013-07-09 22:51:33-04

KALAMAZOO, Mich. – Police in Kalamazoo are on the hunt for one of West Michigan’s Most Wanted, 21-year-old Okoli Staggers who is wanted in connection with a July 4 shooting.

The incident sent a 52-year-old man to the hospital with a gunshot wound to the leg. Police said the victim was shot while on his porch with his family.

Kimberly Whitaker, a mother of six, said what happened to her family on July 4 was an act of community terrorism.

“We don’t really sleep well,” Whitaker said from a relative’s home.  “We are not really comfortable where we are.”

Whitaker has only lived on Hays Park for six months.  On July 4 she was at work while her family was at home.

“My daughter called me hysterical and I wasn’t able to understand what had happened but I knew something terrible had happened and once I got her to calm down she told me that Dave, my fiance, had been shot,” she said.

Whitaker said more than a dozen shots were fired that day by a man walking down the sidewalk.  A man police said is Staggers.  Bullets hit Whitaker’s home, her car, her fiance’s leg. He’s back at work and is expected to recover physically, but the mental stress for the entire family continues.

“The children could feel the force of the bullets coming their way and they were just running and ducking and running in the house,” she said.

On Tuesday, July 9, kids were seen playing up and down Hays Park.  Neighbors like Gesus Benuelos said it can turn violent in an instant, something he has learned to live with.

“It crosses our minds every day on these streets,” he said.  “Even when we are outside cutting our yards.  It could happen to us.”

Police say the only way the streets are going to be safe is if communities take it upon themselves to report crimes, which is what Kalamazoo Department of Public Safety Captain Victor Ledbetter said happened in the case of Staggers.

“We had witnesses in the area that came forward with a description and the name of the person that saw the shooting,” the Captain said.

According to police Staggers is wanted as a person of interest in a number of other crimes and should be considered armed and dangerous.