Several residents at the East Acres housing complex said the COVID-19 pandemic, civil unrest nationwide and closed city recreational activities have led to increased violence in their neighborhood, including a shooting Friday that was the second there in 14 days.
Residents also said the Decatur Housing Authority needs to do a better job of screening new tenants.
On Friday morning, a male sustained non-life-threatening injuries when he was shot in the 1800 block of Locust Street Southeast, about 100 yards from where 16-year-old Amari Elijah Deloney was fatally shot July 4. Decatur police have made arrests in both cases.
“It’s not as safe as it was a few months ago,” said Ashley Dickerson, 26, who said she has been living in the complex for six years. “COVID-19 has people going crazy. Now folks ain’t going nowhere without their guns. They see the violence and protests on TV, and everyone and their mamas have gone out and bought guns. I expect more of it. People are bored at home and getting in trouble when they get out.”
She said the Decatur Housing Authority, which oversees East Acres, is allowing "more hoodlums" into the Southeast Decatur complex.
Jeff Snead, director of the Decatur Housing Authority, could not be reached for comment.
According to jail records, Storm Densezil Williams, 27, was arrested and charged with second-degree assault in Friday's shooting. Court records list his address as 1804 Locust St. S.E., where the shooting happened. He was in Morgan County Jail on Friday with bail set at $20,000. Police have not identified the victim.
Dickerson said the killing of Deloney two weeks earlier was senseless and claimed an innocent life. Decatur police charged Shannon Doors Thomas, 26, 3110 Sumac Road S.W., Decatur with capital murder in the case. Thomas remains in Morgan County Jail with no bail.
Deloney, a Decatur resident, was taken to Decatur Morgan Hospital and then transported to UAB Hospital in Birmingham, where he was pronounced dead, according to police.
“Bullets don’t have eyes,” Dickerson said. “That bullet wasn’t meant for that boy. He was just on his way back home from watching some fireworks a few blocks away. The people on Locust must not know how to act.”
Dickerson lives on Martin Street, one block north of Locust Street.
Activities shut down
Another neighbor on Martin Street, Bobby Lewis, 30, said the pandemic has changed everybody’s lifestyle and believes the violence is a byproduct.
“People have to have something to do,” he said. “Give Decatur Youth Services more money for more activities and open up Point Mallard and these recreation centers.”
Decatur Parks and Recreation Director Jason Lake said he would be thrilled to restart activities, but he can’t because it would be unsafe and unwise.
“We’d love to open things up, and some things are open,” he said. “We’re following what the (Centers for Disease Control) is recommending and Gov. (Kay) Ivey’s orders. It is not safe to open all of the parks and centers.”
Lewis said he has lived at East Acres his entire life and has seen a rise in violence in the community the past few years, especially the past few months.
“I’ve seen a couple of these gun incidents recently,” Lewis said. “When you quarantine people and there’s nothing to do, people get restless locked up at home. Now we have a few bad apples coming into the neighborhood shooting things up.”
He said he has noticed an increase in police presence “driving through the past few months.”
“This COVID has thrown everybody a curveball, and people are ready to get out of the house,” he said.
Dickerson said the city should consider implementing a curfew and installing a gate for East Acres and “give the kids more to do during the daytime.”
“People are inside because of COVID and they don’t know how to act when they get out and they do crazy things,” she said.
She said living in East Acres and seeing the violence at home and in the news has changed her approach to life.
“I’m strapped and loaded every time I go out,” she said.
Decatur police spokeswoman Emily Long said the department routinely patrols East Acres, and vice and narcotics agents were nearby when the shooting occurred Friday morning.
“We want to emphasize we care about that community and will continue to do so,” Long said. “Safety of our citizens is our No. 1 priority.”
In a written statement on Friday's shooting, Long said plainclothes officers with vice and narcotics “observed a physical altercation between two males.”
“One of the males, Storm Williams, brandished a firearm and began to shoot at the victim,” the statement said. The officers then detained Williams.
Long said the shooting occurred shortly after 10 a.m.
Witnesses said they heard multiple gunshots, saw neighbors running and saw the victim bleeding and lying in the grass in front of units 1804 and 1806 on Locust Street Southeast.
“I heard about four or five shots and came out and saw this fellow lying in the yard,” said Jimmy Wilkerson, of Anniston, who said he has been visiting his sister at East Acres for the past three days. “The ambulance and police arrived really quickly.”
More than 20 Decatur police officers responded to the scene along with Decatur Fire and Rescue and First Response ambulance service.