Ala. chief: 'Community has to be a stakeholder' after 22% spike in homicides

"When the [community] sees things, they've got to let us know so we can intervene. The police can't do it all," Chief Scott Thurmond said


By Carol Robinson
AL.com

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. — Birmingham’s homicide rate is up nearly 22 percent, fueled in part by a violent July in the Magic City.

Thirteen people have been killed in the first 26 days of the month, up from eight in July of last year.

Thirteen people have been killed in the first 26 days of the month, up from eight in July of last year.
Thirteen people have been killed in the first 26 days of the month, up from eight in July of last year. (Photo/Carol Robinson of AL.com via TNS)

Of those 13 slayings, six happened between Friday and Tuesday.

Police Chief Scott Thurmond there is no explanation for the string of violent deaths over that four-day period.

“None of those crimes were related in any way, shape, form or fashion,’’ he said. “Something we constantly track is are these related? Is there a possibility it’s retaliation, things of that nature, and that wasn’t the case in any of these.”

There have been 80 homicides in the city so far this year.

Of those, six have been ruled justifiable and therefore aren’t deemed criminal.

As of July 26, 2021, there had been 67 homicides in the city for the year.

In all of Jefferson County, there have been 105 homicides, including the 80 in Birmingham. As of this time last year, there were 115 homicides countywide.

The city ended 2021 with 132 homicides in Birmingham, coming within just nine slayings of its all-time high record. Countywide last year there were 213.

On Friday, 23-year-old Reed Anderson Rigsby was found dead in an Airbnb in Birmingham.

The city’s South Precinct officers were dispatched at 2:40 p.m. Friday to a residence in the 4500 block of Sixth Avenue South on a report of a person down.

They arrived to find Rigsby, who lived in Heflin, unresponsive inside the home. He was pronounced dead on the scene.

Initially, the man’s death was listed as unclassified. An autopsy by the Jefferson County Medical Examiner’s Office showed evidence of foul play.

An autopsy showed Rigsby had been fatally shot. The victim was staying in an Airbnb.

No arrests have been announced.

Saturday, 16-year-old Kavas Jemison, a Jackson-Olin High School student, was found shot to death in the back seat of a vehicle on Interstate 59/20 in Birmingham.

West Precinct officers responded just after 8 p.m. to a report of a person shot on I-59/20 southbound at the Bush Boulevard exit in Ensley. When they arrived, they found Kavas unresponsive in the back seat. He had been shot.

Birmingham Fire and Rescue Service pronounced the teen dead on the scene.

Officer Truman Fitzgerald said whoever was driving the red or burgundy sedan was not at the location when police and fire medics arrived. A short time later, a female showed up at the West Precinct and said she may have been involved in a shooting.

The female was questioned by detectives. No charges have been filed.

Police said they have identified those involved. The case is being sent to a grand jury to determine whether charges will be filed.

On Sunday, Holli Jo Wilson was found dead inside her northern Birmingham home after police received a call reporting a person down inside a home in the 3100 block of 30th Avenue North. That is in the Collegeville neighborhood.

When North Precinct officers entered the residence just after 5 a.m., they located the Wilson unresponsive. She was pronounced dead on the scene by Birmingham Fire and Rescue Service at 5:53 a.m.

Coroner’s officials said the woman died from blunt force trauma.

Her boyfriend, 55-year-old Fessor Vontrese McKinney III, is charged with capital murder in the slaying of Holli Jo Wilson. The charge is capital because at some point, authorities say, McKinney held Wilson against her will with the intent to do her harm.

Two men were killed just hours apart on Monday night: Dwight Deangelo Thomas Jr., 19, and Frederick Hooks III, 34.

Thomas died in a hail of gunfire on Birmingham’s west side. Police on Tuesday said he was in an Audi SUV that was stolen out of Shelby County after the keys were left in the vehicle.

That SUV, police said, is believed to have been involved in multiple high-speed police chases over the past week.

Officers were dispatched just before 9 p.m. to the 700 block of Sixth Avenue West on a report of multiple Shot Spotter alerts. Once on the scene, they canvassed the area and found the Audi in the roadway with an open door.

Officers then saw the driver suffering from at least one gunshot wound. Birmingham Fire and Rescue Service pronounced Thomas dead on the scene.

Police said between 50 to 60 rounds were fired in what they believe was a shootout.

Hooks was found dead on a Norwood sidewalk less than two hour later.

North Precinct officers were dispatched just after 10:30 p.m. to the 1600 block of 35th Street North on a report of a traffic accident. As they were on the scene, a resident alerted them to a person down nearby.

Officers walked just around the corner to the 3500 block of Norwood Boulevard where they located Hooks unresponsive. He had been shot multiple times and was pronounced dead on the scene.

There was no immediate report from Shot Spotter or residents of gunfire in the area.

On Tuesday, 18-year-old Daniel Edward Fowler was found fatally shot in northern Birmingham

Birmingham police about at 8:45 p.m. received a report of shots fired in the 1400 block of 21st Street North. As officers were en route, they received updated information that a vehicle had wrecked.

They walked into the parking lot where they found Fowler unresponsive on the ground outside of the vehicle. Birmingham Fire and Rescue Service pronounced the victim dead on the scene at 8:54 p.m.

No arrests have been announced.

Most of the recent homicides were in a house or a vehicle.

“It makes it hard for police to intervene,’’ the chief said. “How do you look and see what’s going on in a residence? How do you look and see what’s going in every vehicle in our city? It’s very frustrating.”

Thurmond said the violent crime is down 14.5 percent versus this time last year. Property crime is up about 2 percent, with the main issuing there being car thefts and car break-ins.

Overall crime is down 2 percent, but homicides are up 21.7 percent.

“It’s people, places and behaviors,’’ Thurmond said. “If you’re engaged in nefarious activity, if you’re associating with people who also engage in nefarious activity and go places you shouldn’t be, the chance of being involved in a violent crime is very high.”

“It’s hard for police to combat when these things are going on and we don’t know about them,’’ he said.

“The community has to be a stakeholder of reducing violent crime. When they see things, they’ve got to let us know so we can intervene. The police can’t do it all.”

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