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INDIANAPOLIS — Shootings, both fatal and non-fatal, continue to tear apart families and devastate neighborhoods in Indianapolis.

On Wednesday, Marion County Prosecutor Ryan Mears and DeAndra Dycus, founder and executive director of Purpose 4 My Pain, led a community community conversation to discuss non-fatal shootings and moving towards solutions to the violence.

In the first six months of 2021, there have been 317 non-fatal shootings. Compare that to the same time period of 2020, where there were 220 non-fatal shootings. In the first six months of 2019, there were 198.

“We have seen a tremendous increase in this area of non-fatal shootings,” said Mears.

“There’s been a lot of conversation in our community about where are non-fatal shootings coming from and some of the potential solutions to non-fatal shootings,” Mears said. He says many people have speculated that individuals from community corrections have been involved in shootings, both fatal and non-fatal, but the idea of people from community corrections driving the shootings is not supported.

According to data, Mears said over a one year period, there were 531 victims of non-fatal shootings, including 14 on community corrections. Of 151 people suspected of pulling the trigger of a gun in a non-fatal shooting, Mears said two were on community corrections.

“Of all the non-fatal shootings in Marion County, there is someone out there who knows what happened,” said Mears.

One case that remains unsolved is the shooting of Dycus’ son, DeAndre Knox. In Feb. 2014, Knox was at a friend’s birthday party when his life, and his family’s, changed forever. He was shot in the back of the head.

“I received the worst phone call a parent could receive and that was get to Riley Hospital, your kid has been shot,” said Dycus. “For me, in the aftermath of Dre’s shooting, it was important to be vocal because we did not hear about non-fatals, we really didn’t hear about innocent people being shot enough.”

Dycus’ son is now 20 years old, but as he approaches his 21st birthday in September, she said he will never have the opportunity to spend it as many 21 year olds do.

“He is what they call a nonverbal, spastic quadriplegic, terms that you really don’t hear until your life is impacted to the magnitude that ours has been,” said Dycus. “My son is paralyzed from the chest down.”

Dycus shared that she often hears from strangers how lucky she is that her son even survived.

“There’s nothing lucky about my son needing 24-hour care, being G-tube fed, and at 20 years old having to constantly wipe drool and change diapers,” said Dycus.

She continued, “That’s not lucky. We are very blessed that DeAndre survived and as I spent time with him at his facility, I was in a very, very – I was in a space of gratitude, as well as grief.”

Dycus said many people she encounters do not understand what it truly means to survive a gunshot. She hopes to educate those who don’t, while comforting those who know it all too well.

“Just to be honest with you, I rarely get to talk to families of non-fatal shootings. There’s a stigma that comes with it that I’m trying to work with the community to shatter,” Dycus explained.

Dycus created Purpose 4 My Pain to surround other families impacted by gun violence with love and hope, and to be a voice for loved ones.

One of the meeting’s attendees, Anthoney Hampton has also been personally impacted by gun violence.

“My grandson lost his life on the canal last summer, had a son that was murdered. Several kids I’ve coached or mentored have been shot.”

“I’m tired of seeing mothers cry. Tired of seeing stuff played on the news. Tired of it being the norm, like it shouldn’t be normal for Black children to be dying and killing,” said Hampton.

He works with inner-city youth, often times spending the money from his own paycheck to provide them a meal, and any opportunities they can coordinate.

Hampton said he wants to see more investments in the community’s youth, and that he has been coming to these meetings for years and making his voice heard. “I just want something offered for them, like there’s nothing been offered,” he said.

“Sometimes they listen, sometimes they don’t. The thing is, I had gotten tired of coming to the meetings, but if I don’t they don’t know how I feel, they don’t know how people who look like me feel,”said Hampton.

Community members demanded change on the front-end and asked for a promise for there to be proactive measures and investments before shootings happen.

“I want to make sure we’re being proactive about the policies and programs we’re putting in place because I don’t want to talk about after they’ve been shot,” said Whitley Yates.

Mears said his office is working on several projects to help reduce gun violence and meet the community’s needs. He said in order to see a change, not only does the community need to be involved, but so does his office and other government officials.

He said, “If we really want to make a difference in non-fatal shootings, if we really want to make a difference in nonviolent crime, the solution is not going to come overnight.”

Mears said they have made a prosecutor’s plan for improvement, breaking down the steps they are taking to help reduce the rate of violent crimes and increasing the solve rate of shootings.

They include:

  1. Increasing the use of a grand jury: Mears said the county plans to utilize a grand jury more often, which ensures a higher level of protection and privacy on the pre-trial end for both the victim and any potential witnesses.

He said the hope is that uncooperative victims and witnesses will be more compelled to come forward and provide what they know to investigators. A person would still need to testify if the case went to trial.

2. Mears said they are working to improve victim and witness outreach by doing a ‘better job’ building relationships and investments in the community. They’re also working on better resources to protect witnesses.

3. Improving digital evidence gathering: Mears said this means taking a proactive role as it relates to the investigative side of their job. He said they recently got the technology to be in a position where they will be able to analyze cell phones, pull information and utilize the grand jury.

“Technology’s a great thing, but it also leaves a pretty significant digital footprint, said Mears.

He said everything comes back to the trust building process in the community and their efforts to bridge any gaps between law enforcement or officials.

His office is working to also build that trust among youths in the community.

One of these ways, Mears said, is by no longer filing a case when a juvenile is a low-level, non-violent offender. Instead, Mears said they will use the money from his office’s budget and pay for them to attend the Boys and Girls Club.

“When you give them that hope, that opportunity, that’s when we’ll see this thing turn around.”

This announcement by the prosecutor was met with support from many of Wednesday’s meeting attendees, who were given the opportunity to ask questions, make suggestions, and speak up at the meeting.

Aleanya Moore, a community member, said in order to move forward and find solutions, the community must take it into its own hands and stop “waiting for handouts.”

“Stop asking for permission and do what we have to do and that’s the solution that I will provide,” said Moore. “If we’re living in these neighborhoods, we’re asking permission to excel. We need to take it, make it happen.”

“The community itself has to bring a lot more of the juice to the solution,” said another woman.

An additional attendee said judges should also be held accountable and brought to the community meetings to be involved in the conversation.

Community members suggested the problem stemmed from several factors, including a lack of proactive patrolling by IMPD, as well as lack of trust.

Chris Bailey, IMPD assistant chief of police, told FOX59 he was at Wednesday’s meeting to listen to the community’s comments and concerns, bring them back to the table, and continue working to find ways the department can also improve.

“I think one of the most important things for us to do in law enforcement and government in general is to listen to listen to people most impacted by violent crime in our community,” said Bailey.

“These are their feelings, these are their perceptions and we have a responsibility to try and fix that — to build those bridges, close those gaps.”