FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) – The year 2017 is now the fourth deadliest in Allen County’s history. The coroner has determined two people killed over Christmas weekend were a result of homicides.
Delonte Walker-Ross, 18, died early Saturday morning after he was shot several times inside a home in the 1500 block of Oxford Street. Hours later, police found Deandre Voss, 32, dead near a building at the Villages of Hanna Apartments on Greene Street.
According to Fort Wayne Police, the shootings are not related. Walker-Ross and Voss are the 40th and 41st homicide victims of the year, according to the Allen County Coroner’s Office.
Sgt. Craig Gregory, who heads the FWPD homicide division, said about 37 of the homicides this year are under investigation by the department.
Arrests were made in several other homicides, including a mother charged with shooting her boyfriend inside a hotel, a man charged with beating his father to death with a hammer, and another man accused of beating his girlfriend’s son to death.
The man suspected of killing a well-known Fort Wayne Community Schools educator and coach was arrested soon after FWPD release surveillance video, however he has not been charged with murder.
Dozens of others are still under investigation.
Gregory said, said in some cases, they know who the shooters are and may even have them locked up on other charges. However, they do not have enough evidence to prove those people are responsible for homicides. Oftentimes, the people responsible for killing others will end up being killed themselves, he said.
Gang violence and drugs are often to blame for the city’s homicides but this year Gregory said several of them are a result of domestic violence. The homicide division relies on information from FWPD’s gang and violent crime unit.
“They do a good job of keeping us abreast on what kind of problems they are having, who has a beef against who or who may retaliate against previous shootings,” he said.
Gregory said the southeast quadrant of the city is leading in the number of homicides, but this year there has been an uptick in killings on the northwest side of town.
“The jump you may see in the north, is where people may decide to go party tonight,” he said. “There might be a popular place northeast that they’ll go to one year. The next year they may find a place northwest that they all like to hang out.”
Gregory said the department has received tips in almost every homicide case this year but there is a bigger problem law enforcement faces in trying to make arrests and ultimately get convictions.
“Our problem is not with somebody coming forward,” he said. “It is with coming forward and following the process of the court system to testify.”
Gregory said FWPD works with the Allen County Prosecutor’s office to help protect witnesses however many people refuse the help. That is why many cases never go to trial.
“It’s a long process and these cases could be drawn out years and their name will eventually come out,” said Gregory. “I think that’s the fear. We can try to say this is what you do to protect yourself and this is how we help you. We can go anywhere in the country but if they are on social media and those kind of things, people are going to know where they’re at.”
Despite growing concerns that Fort Wayne is becoming a more dangerous place, Sgt. Gregory said the numbers tell a different story. While other surrounding cities are seeing a rise in homicides, the numbers in Fort Wayne have declined this year, he said.
“Chicago, Indianapolis… they have seen a rise,” said Gregory. “I’m just glad we’re down for the year.”
Allen County had 49 homicides in 2016.