Nearly 150 people gathered at Springfield Baptist Church Sunday night to discuss recent shootings in the community.
Since June 22, there have been five reported shooting incidents with three injuries and a lot of property damage.
Mayor Kenneth Usry, Thomson Police Chief John Seay, McDuffie County Sheriff Logan Marshall, and Toombs Judicial Circuit District Attorney Bill Doupé took turns speaking to the rally participants for close to an hour. Since the cases are ongoing, there was no discussion of specifics and no question and answer session at the July 1 rally.
Each said that the agencies, including the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, are working hard to bring people into custody. Two have been arrested and others are being sought.
Usry said there were two small factions in the community that are causing the problem and that agencies are working through the crimes.
“They are doing everything they can to try to get their arms around what has transpired in our community,” he said.
“And we will accomplish that mission. We’ve got a good community. Every now and then things stick their ugly head up and this scared a lot of folks. It scares me, because these folks are after each other, but it could be that when they get on these shooting rampages, they could shoot an innocent bystander.”
Seay said that people need to come together and let law enforcement know when there is trouble.
“Since Jan. 1, there have been 100 calls of shots fired,” said Seay, adding that AK47s are being used.
He enumerated the shootings and said that the weapons had great power, adding that the community had to come together and help law officers when an incident occurs.
“Until the public comes together and says this stuff is going to end, it’s just going to get worse,” said Seay, adding that all churches needed to come together to be a part of the solution.
Marshall said that the shootings in the city are not the only gun-related situations and that they have been going on in the county, also.
“We are going to have to be over active in doing what we do,” he said.
“We need the public. We cannot do anything without the public. We have good people living all over McDuffie County, and it is a few groups around the community.”
Marshall said the crimes involved black-on-black and that he was not afraid to say it.
“We need to be proactive… We all need to be on the same page and I appreciate the support the public has given us. Hopefully in the future we can do better and put these people in jail.”
Doupé thanks the Rev. Frederick Favors for his involvement and for allowing the rally to be held at the church.
“There are things going on (in the incidents) and that have been going on that we can’t tell you about as we handle these situations,” he said.
The DA said that the perception that nothing is being done is not true.
“These guys are working hard on the streets trying to make these cases,” Doupé said of the agencies involved.
“I have to ask myself how did it get to the point where they feel comfortable doing this at 3:30 in the afternoon on one of our busiest thoroughfares (referring to the shooting where two were wounded at Spee-Dee Foods on Gordon Street.)”
Doupé said that the ones that are inclined to do this activity know that the public is not going to be quiet, adding that citizens are encouraged to give law enforcement information and that the information can remain confidential.
Several area pastors spoke of the need for the community to come together and be proactive to bring about a resolution to the recent and ongoing crimes.
After the rally, Rosa Hunt said she was satisfied with the effort, but that she hopes that more arrests will come. “There was an absence of parents here tonight, and parents have to get involved along with all the community,” she said, adding that the problem begins at pre-teen ages and spirals upward.
“We just all need to work to help this end and be a better community.”
Anyone with information on the crimes is asked to call the GBI at 706-595-2575, McDuffie County Sheriff’s Office at 706-595-2040, or the Thomson Police Department at 706-595-2166.