KALAMAZOO, Mich. — This week marked the first homicide in Kalamazoo for 2022, lagging behind the numbers for this time last year.
The first homicide of the year took the life of Kalamazoo rapper Devon Jackson, also known as Viggie Versace.
On Monday, April 25, he was shot and killed outside of an apartment complex in Kalamazoo's Eastside neighborhood.
His family and friends remember him as a hard worker.
"Viggie Versace as a person, he was very energetic. He was life, you know what I am saying? He really believed in himself. He had big dreams," said Joseph Lee, a longtime friend of Devon Jackson.
Lee and Jackson were friends for around 20 years. Lee said his death hits close to home, as it happens to far too many successful Black men.
"He loved the city that he was from. He loved Kalamazoo. He repped it. He loved being from the Eastside of town. He just had a lot of great things going on for his life. He had kids. He was a family man. He took care of his business and all. To see his life end so abruptly and shortly is most definitely a tragedy," said Lee.
The Kalamazoo Department of Public Safety said gun violence has become a huge issue.
"What we see in gun violence in particular is that today’s suspect could be tomorrow’s victim, so they’re all the same," said Kalamazoo Department of Public Safety Deputy Chief David Boysen.
In 2021, Kalamazoo saw a total of 75 nonfatal shootings and 12 homicides.
READ: Kalamazoo police solve majority of homicides from 2021
So far this year, numbers are trending down.
"One of the things that we are seeing this year compared to last year is that last year, I think at this time, we had 19 nonfatal shootings and two homicides. This year we have had 15 nonfatal shootings and one homicide," said Boysen.
Deputy Chief Boysen said in the last two years, they've seen double the number on nonfatal shootings compared to previous years.
He said they believe it's from having to stop community intervention programs due to the pandemic, but they said they're getting back on track and back into the community.
"We focus our strategies on not the guns in particular but who is carrying them and who shouldn’t be, so we are starting to see that pay off where we really address some of these people who have offended in the past. We do direct interventions with them, with our outreach team, our enforcement team, so we are not waiting for them to re-offend. We are addressing that," said Boysen.
Boysen also added that retaliation is a big part of the gun violence being seen, and they're working to address that in this most recent case and others to ensure it doesn't happen.
The shooting death of Devon Jackson remains under investigation and no suspect information has been released.
Anyone with information is being asked to contact KDPS at (269) 488-8911 or Silent Observer at (269) 343-2100.