‘Safe place’: GR residents weigh in on violence

Grand Rapids

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — A pair of shootings and a massive fight downtown Saturday night added to the rough summer of visible violence in the city of Grand Rapids.

Rick Lekenta, 29, who has lived in the city his entire life, visited Fish Ladder Park on Front Street NW Sunday evening.

It’s about a block away from where a 21-year-old man was shot and killed while driving Saturday night. An 18-year-old woman was also rushed into surgery with a gunshot wound.

The death marks the ninth homicide in the city this year — the same number there were all of last year in about half the time. It’s the first 2019 homicide on the north side of town.

“Grand Rapids is a safe place,” Lekenta stated. “This is a great city. I like this city a lot. I represent this city. But just usually late at night, that’s when the trouble happens.”

According to Grand Rapids Police Department, the deadly incident was the second shooting in about 10 minutes Saturday. The first wounded a 17- and 19-year-old at the Big Boy restaurant on Pearl Street NW near Summer Avenue NW. The 19-year-old had emergency surgery and his condition had not been released as of Sunday night. The 17-year-old is expected to recover.

Both shootings happened shortly after 10:30 p.m. Saturday, when hundreds of people were in the downtown area for the annual fireworks show.

GRPD Sgt. Dan Adams said his department not just focused on murders, saying any shooting is a problem.

“What we also look at as a department (and) was very, very concerning for us, was the number of shootings,” Adams said at an early Sunday morning press conference, “because the difference between a homicide and a shooting could be millimeters.”

It’s not just shootings rocking the peace of the city. Cory Sly, of Spring Lake, recorded a video of a large fight Saturday night that involved dozens of people downtown. He told 24 Hour News 8 that it happened on Monroe Avenue, across from Rosa Parks Circle. Sly’s video shows the unruly group throwing punches near the LOVE sculpture.

GRPD has not released any information on whether there were injuries during or arrests after the fight.

“I don’t understand why anybody would come out here and try to disrupt the whole area,” Joe Leija said at Fish Ladder Park Sunday.

Fish Ladder Park
A fisherman at Fish Ladder Park in Grand Rapids on July 7, 2019)

He’s an Indiana transplant but has called Grand Rapids home for years. Leija explained he frequents downtown areas and events. More reports of shootings won’t change that, he said.

“It’s beautiful down here. I won’t tell anybody, ‘Don’t come down here.’ No. Please come down here. Enjoy the festivities, the lights, the buildings, the people, everything,” Leija said. “It’s not always like that. It’s not. And those that don’t know, well, let me tell you it’s not like that at all. Period.”

No suspects had been arrested in the shootings as of Sunday night.

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