GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — In a spate of violence the police chief called “absolutely insane,” three people were found dead within hours and blocks of each other in Grand Rapids’ Burton Heights neighborhood on Monday.
Grand Rapids Police Department Chief Eric Winstrom could not immediately say for certain whether the three deaths were connected, but said it seemed unlikely they were separate.
“It’s possible it isn’t (related), but I’m guessing it is,” he said.
He added that none of the deaths were believed to be the result of random violence.
“We haven’t pieced together exactly how they fit together, but I don’t think there’s any danger to the community at large,” Winstrom said.
Investigators in the area remained for hours collecting evidence, pointing to “numerous shell casings on the street.” Winstrom said detectives knocked on doors, trying to get any surveillance video they could. While he didn’t have a suspect or vehicle description to release as of about 5 p.m., he said neighbors were giving police a lot of information about what they heard or saw.
‘TWO BLOODY BODIES IN THE STREET’
The two initial deaths happened around 11:10 a.m. Officers were called to the neighborhood by several 911 calls reporting two people in the street with blood on their faces. They found a young man and woman dead. Their names have not been released.
Winstrom said the crime scene spanned about four blocks, with one body was found on Melville Street SE near Francis Avenue and the other on Horton Avenue near Melville.
“It’s a long way between where the two bodies were located,” the chief said, adding that it was unclear whether the person responsible was on foot or in a car. “Since we believe those two killings are connected, that’s a long space that my officers are canvassing, that they’re looking for forensic evidence and things like that.”
The chief couldn’t immediately confirm the two were shot, though he said, “If I had to bet on it, I’m guessing that that’s the case.”
“Tragically, we have two bloody bodies in the street and we don’t have an explanation for that,” Winstrom said.
He said the medical examiner would be able to provide clarity about the cause of the deaths.
“There’s not an immediate feeling that anyone (in the neighborhood) has an explanation for us,” Winstrom said. “At this point in time, it really is a mystery. We have two bodies in the street and the neighborhood is kind of throwing their hands up and saying, ‘We don’t know what’s going on, either.'”
The investigation had not yet progressed to the point where he could say who was responsible, but he hoped that he would get some answers “very quickly.”
“With this big of a crime scene, it’s broad daylight, with this many people out and about, I think that we should be able to get the cooperation that we need from the citizens, the people of Grand Rapids, to help us out,” Winstrom said.
Shortly before 4 p.m., a young adult man was found shot dead on Horton Avenue just south of Burton Street SE. His name was not immediately released.
“This is obviously an expansion of the tragedy from this morning,” Winstrom said.
“Just like this morning, it’s broad daylight, there’s a lot of people out…” Winstrom said. “So many that when the officers arrived, that individuals just walked up to them and started talking to them.”
Winstrom promised GRPD would be “extra vigilant” until the shooter or shooters were arrested.
“This is shocking to me. It’s got to be shocking to (neighbors),” Winstrom said. “They’re outraged about it. I’m outraged about it.”
He said that outrage would fuel GRPD to find the people responsible and should encourage the community to try to address root causes of violence.
“We never want to be the city where we tolerate this and move on. This is absolutely outrageous,” Winstrom said.
Winstrom called on anyone with information or video to call GRPD at 616.456.3400 or report what they know anonymously to Silent Observer at 616.774.2345.
“There’s no reason not to do the right thing and come forward. It’s going to make the city a better place, a safer place for the children behind me and for everybody else,” the chief said.
Grand Rapids typically doesn’t experience this many murders in a day.
“If you look back to the Dantzler incident back in … well before I got here,” said Winstrom.
Grand Rapids police haven’t seen this level of violence since 2011 when seven people were shot and killed in a shoot spree.
“But three murders in one day is something I never experienced here, and I hope to never experience again,” Winstrom said.
Burton Heights neighbors were left shocked.
“It’s three bodies in less than 10 hours. That’s kind of spooky for our city. Especially going into the holiday season. Like, that’s somebody’s baby right there. You know what I mean? It kind of hurts,” said a neighbor who did not want to be identified.
“We have to definitely start thinking more about the kids and giving them a safer area to live in for sure. Cause I mean on a beautiful day like this a kid could have been riding his bike right there. Stop the violence, honestly,” said another neighbor.
A report of a person with a gun a few blocks away on Evergreen Street SE in the morning was unrelated to the deaths, police said.
—News 8’s Kyle Mitchell and Amanda Porter contributed to this report.