Balloon launch remembers homicide victim on the year anniversary

A balloon launch Wednesday remembered Codi McCann, who was shot and killed on December 6, 2016.

FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) – About 50 people gathered in a parking lot at the corner of East State Boulevard and California Avenue Wednesday night to remember their son, brother and friend, Codi McCann.

“He was 6’5″ and could just envelop me with his arms. He was just starting a career at UPS. He had so many amazing things for his future, but that was taken away with one senseless act of violence,” Stacey Davis, McCann’s mom, said.

McCann was shot to death on December 6, 2016 in the parking lot behind what used to be East State Bar and Grill. The balloons sent into the air had messages written on them, telling McCann that he’s not forgotten and there’s still hope his killer will be brought to justice.

Davis is frustrated a year has passed and no arrest has been made in her son’s case.

Codi McCann

“Over the last year, I have seen the wheels of justice turn so slowly. And justice that is not swift is no deterrent,” Davis said.

Fort Wayne Police Chief Steve Reed said his officers aren’t giving up.

“Detectives continue to work on this case doing everything possible to bring this case to conclusion. It is tough around the anniversary times for the family and it weighs on the detectives too,” Reed said.

Davis said they think they know who killed her son, but an arrest hasn’t been able to be made. Reed couldn’t give case specifics as to why, but McCann’s homicide isn’t the only one where detectives think they know who did it, but they can’t take it to the prosecutor.

“In most of our cases, we have a suspect or a person of interest and we just don’t have that evidence to proceed with the case. A lot of that [could change with] people coming forward,” Reed said.

Reed said he’s very frustrated, just as all the victims’ families are, that they can’t close more homicide cases.

A cross now sits in the parking lot where Codi McCann was shot and killed in 2016.

Homicide stats from the Fort Wayne police department for the last three years show homicide clearance rates are below half every year. It was 36 percent in 2015, 44 percent in 2016 and 21 percent so far this year.

“This year we have some cases pending with prosecutors and detectives are still working actively on many of these cases and the cases in preceeding years, so those numbers may go up,” Reed said.

Click here to see the homicide stats from the Fort Wayne Police Department.

“We solve the cases with the evidence we have. We need people to come forward with information to help us solve these cases. So, until we get more cooperation, I don’t see our clearance rates getting better,” Chief Reed said. “I’d like to see 100 percent every year, but to get that, we need people to come forward.”

Fort Wayne homicides in 2017 are down 17 percent from this time in 2016 and non-fatal shootings are down 22 percent, according to FWPD Chief Steve Reed.

Chief Reed said in a few homicide cases, the victim’s parents wouldn’t even give information to help find who killed their child. But he said, the Thanksgiving Day robbery homicide case at a gas station shows what can happen when the community comes forward.

“The level of cooperation and tips that came pouring in allowed us to make an apprehension in less than 24 hours,” he said.

Davis argues there’s more that police can do, without waiting for witnesses to come forward. Davis was almost finished with her Masters Degree in Public Affairs when her son was killed. Now through the lens of her degree, and through her grief, she said she sees ways police and prosecutors could close more cases.

“There’s a lack of process due to a lack of manpower and it appears there’s a lack of manpower because budgetary restraints have the police department handcuffed,” Davis said. “The entire system is broken.”

Davis has requested to meet with Mayor Henry to discuss her ideas and to find out how many local dollars, not federal or state funds, are going to the police department.

“I challenge the mayor to show what the local expenditures are. We can’t find money in the police budget for witness protection, DNA testing, surveillance of known crime houses, but he can ask for taxes to be raised for the River Front project,” she said. “When you won’t talk to the families of murder victims who may have insight and who may have ideas, I don’t know how you even get there.”

The mayor’s office declined 15 Finds Out’s interview request. In an email the city spokesman said:

We believe the Fort Wayne Police Department is best suited to do this interview. We feel for Ms. Davis and our thoughts continue to be with her. We don’t want any parent in Fort Wayne to experience the loss of a child.

The Mayor’s office receives hundreds of requests each year from residents wanting to meet with the Mayor. Each request is reviewed and we then make a determination on who is best able to answer the respective questions and concerns. In this case, our believe was the Police Department was the appropriate division to meet with Ms. Davis.”

When 15 Finds Out sat down with Chief Reed he was familiar with Davis and some of her concerns, but he disagrees with her arguments.

“We have a great budget. The mayor and council have been good about keeping us up to full staffing. If you ask any police chief across the country, they’ll say we want more people, so I’m not going to say I wouldn’t, but right now we want to get to and maintain full staffing,” he said.

There are 462 officers on the department now and Reed expects to be 473 officers by the end of next year.

Davis said she was told the department didn’t have the budget to do surveillance to serve an outstanding warrant on the man she thinks killed Codi.

“Our perpetrator did have a warrant at the time he shot my son. They said they couldn’t find him and there wasn’t a budget to serveil where we thought he was,” she said.

One of Davis’ suggestions is to have officers sit outside houses in their quadrants that are suspected of having people with active warrants while they do paper and computer work in their squad cars.

“There’s a police presence. That could serve a lot of things: flushing out perpetrators and nobody likes police sitting in front of their house, so it may incentivize neighbors to give information so the police won’t sit in front of their house anymore,” Davis explained.

“That is already being done to a degree, and we do have surveillance capabilities that can be used and have been used,” Chief Reed rebutted.

Davis also argued more people might come forward with information in other cases if they were offered protection.

“A lot of our homicides are related to drug and gang activity. Our narcotics unit stepped up their game this year and there’s an increase of 87 percent in drug-related arrests.” – Chief Steve Reed

“There’s no money in the budget to compel the witnesses to risk their potential safety to provide the police with those details. If they protected these witnesses, I think they would find more people would come forward.”

Again, Chief Reed disputed that there’s never protection available for witnesses. The prosecutor’s office has also told 15 Finds Out in past stories that witness protection is available if needed.

“We can put measures in place to ensure someone is safe if that scenario arises. If it comes to that level, we work with the prosecutor’s office to provide different levels [of protection],” Reed said.

Reed empathizes with the victims’ families, and said he wants to solve all the homicide cases just as much as they do, but it still comes down to having evidence and witness testimony that will hold up in court.

“I don’t think the process is broken and our community overall is a safe community. Every homicide is tragic and in this case, as in all the others, she lost a child and we feel for her,” Reed said. “The homicide detectives and all our detectives are working extremely hard and each case we have weighs heavily on them.”

For Davis to see justice in her son’s homicide, she has to somehow keep her faith in the very system she thinks is broken.

“Unfortunately that’s a dichotomy. I’ve given up hope, then I got hew hope, then I had given up hope and gotten new hope several times this year. I expect to go through that process several more times before we get to the end of this,” she said. “I look forward to the day [the perpetrator] looks into my eyes and sees the pain he caused.”

Until that day, Davis will send messages to her son on balloons, and try to hold out hope.

“We’re not giving up. We will get justice for Codi,” she said.