As a newspaper editor I receive reports from law enforcement agencies regarding crimes being committed in our community. Reports of someone hurt or killed by gunfire seem to be more numerous than ever. A release from the Decatur Police Department on Friday was even more chilling than some others — if that is possible. The report read: “At approximately 8:00 PM on 07/15/21, Decatur Police officers were detailed to the 1300 block of E. Hickory reference shots fired. While officers were responding to the area, they were notified that an 8-year-old female gunshot victim had arrived at DMH with a non-life-threatening wound to her left forearm.
“Officers determined the victim had sustained the wound while riding in a vehicle with her grandmother and four other juvenile relatives ranging in age from 2 to 11 years old. The grandmother, a 56-year-old Decatur resident, said she was driving northbound on Woodford near Walnut when she heard shots being fired and her vehicle and granddaughter were struck.
“Approximately. 3 hours earlier, at 5:11 PM, a detective conducting a follow-up in the area of Walnut and Charles, which is a block away from Walnut and Woodford, heard shots fired. Responding officers located and apprehended a 16-year-old male who was found to be in possession of two handguns. Numerous shell casings were recovered in proximity to him. He was detained at the Peoria Juvenile Detention Center. No one was struck during this incident. “Detectives are investigating the shooting of the 8-year-old and are looking into possible connections to the recent murders.”
• ALTHOUGH I’m certainly thankful the 8-year-old girl wasn’t killed by the gunshot, and that with other children in the car, ranging in age 2 to 11 years old, more children weren’t injured or even killed by the gun violence, a grandmother should be able to drive on a city street without fear of her grandchildren being wounded or killed by gunfire! It’s bad enough when adults are killed by gunfire in our city, but what about innocent children being shot riding with their grandmother? Gun violence is not just in our city but in other communities across Central Illinois and the U.S. We have enough to deal with coming out of the pandemic but have we reached the point where innocent adults and children have to fear for their lives when they are riding in a car on a major street? These incidents are not happening in the wee hours of the morning, but in broad daylight and early evening.
• BY THE WAY, William Toussaint, 19, of Decatur, was arrested the day after the 8-year-old girl was shot and charged in connection with the shooting. Also, during the investigation into the murder of Antwane McClelland, detectives developed probable cause to arrest Damariyon T. Mills, 22 for Aggravated Discharge of a Firearm and Aggravated Unlawful Use of Weapons. An arrest warrant was obtained and Mills was located and arrested by members of the US Marshals Violent Fugitive Task Force and the DPD Street Crimes Unit at his residence in the 700 block of E. Leafland at around 1:45 PM on 07/16/21. Members of the Macon County Sheriff’s Department also assisted in Mills’s arrest.
So, those suspected of being involved in recent shootings continue to be apprehended by the solid work of the Decatur Police Department and other law enforcement agencies. That’s certainly an encouraging sign for area residents. Anyone with information about any crime is encouraged to contact the Decatur Police Detective Bureau at 217-424-2734 or Crimestoppers at 217-423-TIPS. Tips may also be texted to DPD333.”
• CITY COUNCILMAN Rodney Walker has resigned from his position after serving a little over two years. Walker’s decision apparently came from being unable to take advantage of business opportunities in Decatur because they would represent a conflict of interest with his city council position. He admits, in a long Facebook post about his resignation that, had he known that being a councilman would end up being in conflict with his business opportunities, he would not have been a candidate for the office.
Walker stated: “Unfortunately my position as an elected official has hindered me in several opportunities due to being a conflict of interest. Language and laws were put into place many moons before my existence. I would never expect any special treatment or think of having my team adjust laws for my well being. Laws are laws and I’m not above them . In order for me to continue my existence in the City of Decatur I must free my hands and be able to continue to invest in our community when opportunities arise. I admit if I were aware of the limitations from the beginning then I would have never ran for City Council. That’s my fault and I can live with that. The same way I can live with every decision I voted on as your Councilman. position as an elected official has hindered me in several opportunities due to being a conflict of interest. Language and laws were put into place many moons before my existence. I would never expect any special treatment or think of having my team adjust laws for my well being. Laws are laws and I’m not above them . In order for me to continue my existence in the City of Decatur I must free my hands and be able to continue to invest in our community when opportunities arise. I admit if I were aware of the limitations from the beginning then I would have never ran for City Council. That’s my fault and I can live with that. The same way I can live with every decision I voted on as your Councilman.”
• THE REMAINING six members of the council will approve a replacement for Rodney Walker. Considering the explosive political environment being experienced at all levels of government and the hateful bashing of public officials that often takes place, the selection of qualified people who want to step forward and serve their community in an official capacity, is more limited than it once was in another era. There is also the problem of those involved in positions of business leadership not wanting to limit their opportunities through a conflict of interest when they serve — as Walker explained in his letter of resignation.
The mayor’s position pays $8,000 per year and a city council member receives $4000 per year. Believe me, no one seeks the office because of what they will receive in “pay”. I know when I was elected mayor I had to stop running City of Decatur legal notices because of a possible conflict of interest and, over the years I served, that amounted to more money than the $8,000 per year. Also, any thoughts that the mayor and city council members have a big expense account can be dismissed. During the years I served, a total of something like $25.00 was billed to the city on my behalf as an expense for a ticket to a community event. I was a little upset that happened and had never, to my knowledge, billed the city for mileage, trips to Springfield or any other event involving the mayor’s office. I chose to pay my own way.
The somewhat humorous part of not billing the city for mayor-related expenses was that I was criticized by a few people for not spending enough of the taxpayers money on mayor-related activities — because it meant that I wasn’t doing anything or going anywhere. To my knowledge, it is not very often that a public officials is criticized for spending too little of the taxpayers’ money on his or her expense account.
• THERE are some public officials who take unnecessary trips or attend national events under the umbrella of learning more to help the people they serve. That has happened on the city council in the past. When I was mayor, with the approval of the council, we implemented a policy that the council would approve a councilman, or mayor, making trips to national events, etc., by the member explaining why he or she felt attendance would benefit the city. Then, after the event, that member would explain to the council and the public the benefits he or she brought back to the community. I really don’t know if they still operate that way, but I will contend that back when we did it years ago, it did cut down on unnecessary trips and expenses.
• COVID-19 — The Macon County Health Department reported 22 new COVID-19 cases in Macon County during the previous week, bringing the total number of COVID-19 cases to 11,091 since the start of the pandemic. MCHD also reported the passing of a resident with COVID-19 during this timeframe. The resident was a male in his 70’s. The county’s low vaccination rate raises concerns about the potential spread of the Delta varient.
• I JOIN Brian Byers on WSOY’s Byers & Co. for the City Hall Insider every Thursday morning at 7:00. I always enjoy our conversations on the issues confronting our community.