Thursday, October 27, 2022

Neighborhood violence feeding students’ fears

The recent report of a third student with a gun at Belleville High School may be connected to an ongoing neighborhood dispute in Ypsilanti, according to Superintendent of Van Buren Schools Pete Kudlak.

The latest incident occurred Oct. 12 when high school administrators were notified that a student had posted a social media video of himself brandishing a firearm. The video was not taken at Belleville High School, according to reports from Belleville Police Chief David Robinson, but school administrators and police located the student as he arrived at school the morning of Oct. 13. A firearm was subsequently discovered on his person and he told school administrators that he was carrying the firearm in an effort to protect himself in an ongoing neighborhood conflict. 

He was taken into police custody and was released from the Wayne County Juvenile Detention Center on Friday, Oct. 14, police said. Investigators do not believe the teen had any intent of harming anyone at the school, according to reports, but that he was carrying the firearm in response to an ongoing situation at the West Willow neighborhood in Ypsilanti, where the student lives.

An 18-year-old man was fatally shot in the West Willow area of Outer Lane and Williams Street in March. That victim was shot several times and left lying on the sidewalk, according to police reports. No arrests have been made in the shooting. 

A 15-year-old student was found with a weapon at Belleville High School later in March and five students were detained in April when a loaded firearm was found in a student's book bag. Both students reside in the West Willow area in Ypsilanti and, according to a statement from a school official at a public meeting, the students are afraid they could be shot leaving the bus and walking home. 

During a meeting for parents and school officials last week at the high school, Kudlak told parents that the recent gun incidents were a response to the fatal shooting in March in the West Willow neighborhood. Several students in the neighborhood attend Van Buren District schools.

On Sunday, Oct. 16, a 16-year-old boy was the target of a shooting, according to reports from the Ypsilanti police. Officers were called to the 1000 block of Nash Avenue in the West Willow neighborhood at about 6:47 p.m. A 16-year-old told officers that as he was walking home, a vehicle approached him and one of the occupants opened fire at him with a handgun. 

The teen was not injured, and police are continuing to investigate the incident. Anyone with information about the shooting is asked to contact the Washtenaw County Sheriff's Office confidential tip line at (734) 973-7711 or Crimestoppers at 800-773-2587.

At the meeting last week, Kudlak told parents that the teens do not know how to handle the ongoing violence that has spilled over into their neighborhood.