GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — When Kent County Commissioner Robert Womack was driving to the scene of a shooting on Highland Street last week, he was praying for the victims and hoping it wasn’t anyone he knew.
Sadly, he was wrong. He knew one. His friend’s son was the first fatal victim in a rash of shootings over the weekend.
“All of these murders hurt me because I know they’re somebody’s son, somebody’s daughter, somebody’s child getting hit by a bullet,” Commissioner Womack said during a Zoom interview on Monday afternoon. “But, this one really affected me, being in a neighborhood I grew up in and being the son of a close friend.”
Grand Rapids released the names of the most recent homicide victims. They stated in a press release that on Friday September 25th, 25-year-old Mosi Dehaan Birge and Marty Ferris Beal were shot and killed on Highland SE. Then, two days later, Jewelian Wayn Trevino was shot and killed near Curve and Underhill SW.
“In the neighborhood, people are saying, these shootings, even though they are in retaliation to other shootings, that the people that were shot were not involved in the shooting,” Womack said. “They believe that people actually shot the wrong person or persons but were in the locality of where they believe people would hang out that may have done some shootings in the past.”
Monday morning, another man was shot near the intersection of Diamond Avenue SE and Logan Street SE. GRPD said they believe that victim will survive.
“We have a lot of retaliation shootings going on right now in the city of Grand Rapids,” Womack said. “These retaliation shootings are turning into a giant snowball.”
He said the violence is devastating the community. In mid-September, Grand Rapids saw 11 shootings in one weekend. Now, after this weekend’s violence, the number of homicides is close to 30.
However, unlike previous shootings, Womack is hearing from the youth about how it’s affecting them.
“I’ve even had young people who are a part of the street life reach out and say that ‘enough is enough’ after the shootings this weekend,” Womack said. “And we really hadn’t got much involvement from the youth until after the shootings this weekend.”
Womack said he’s currently putting together a meeting with police chiefs and law enforcement officials from Grand Rapids, Walker, Wyoming, Kent County and Grandville. He’s finding that the crimes committed in those areas are connected to the incidents in Grand Rapids.
“In Grandville, you have guns stolen. In Wyoming, you have guns stolen. Kentwood, you have gun shops broken into,” Womack said. “These guns end up on the streets of Grand Rapids. You have cars stolen in Macomb County. Some of the cars come back to the city of Grand Rapids and are used in drivebys.”
Womack said he believes the best step forward is for the community and law enforcement to meet to brainstorm solutions. He said the youth will be integral in speaking up and solving these crimes.
As long as crimes go unsolved, he said, shootings and murders will continue to occur.
“I just really have to be a voice in my community to let everyone know that once that bullet leaves the chamber you can’t bring it back,” Womack said. “And once that bullet leaves the chamber here in Kent County there’s going to be serious consequences following that.”