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‘Sunnyslope will heal’: Community pushing for change after deadly shootings

Two teens were killed and at least eight others were injured in separate shootings in Sunnyslope on the first weekend of June.

PHOENIX — A moment of silence on Thursday paid tribute to two Valley teenagers killed by gunfire during the first weekend of June.

After the silence subsided, faith leaders and community officials promised change was going to come.

“We will not allow this to identify us,” said Reverend Cleo Lewis, a community pastor. “We will embrace our healing. We make this promise that Sunnyslope will heal.”

The Sunnyslope community members came together to pray and honor the lives of a 15-year-old boy and a 14-year-old girl who were recently killed in separate shootings. Eight other teens were also injured by gunfire.

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The purpose of the gathering was to raise awareness for safety and crime prevention as Lewis and other faith leaders held prayers outside Sunnyslope Family Service Center.

“Twelve days ago, we were all reminded yet again that real evil exists in this world,” said Phoenix Police Commander Brian Issitt of the Desert Horizon Precinct, which oversees Sunnyslope. “However tonight, as we look around we can be encouraged and assured that it is true that love conquers all.”

Violence on Hatcher Road

On June 4th, just before 1 a.m. officers responded to a strip mall after reports of shots fired.

When officers arrived, multiple people were found shot, nine were taken to a hospital.

Doctors could not save 14-year-old Emily Morgan.

An initial investigation suggested about 100 people were gathered at a party inside and outside of a building near 10th Avenue and Hatcher Road, just north of Dunlap, when an altercation escalated to a shooting.

Police said the party had been promoted on social media.

About an hour before the mass shooting, officers were at the scene of another shooting half a mile away on 13th and Vogel Avenues.

A 15-year-old boy was shot and killed outside his home.

“It’s really affected our community,” said Kristle Nay, who has lived in the community for the last 30 years. “We were already a broken community with the fentanyl epidemic and a lot of us have lost friends and family due to that and it has brought violence into our community.”

Nay was passing by near the strip mall when shots rang out.

“People were running and tripping over each other in the rocks and everything over there, trying to get away. It was just horrible,” she said.

Illegal parties and combating crime

The City of Phoenix’s Neighborhood Services Department issued a notice of violation against the owner and tenant of the strip mall where the party and shooting took place early this month.

The department opened a case at the location for violating the phoenix zoning ordinance, as they did not have the required permit for the gathering, a spokesperson said.

The Neighborhood Services Department will be monitoring the property on a regular basis.

“From what I remember, there were four different parties that they’ve thrown, and it’s been three different shootings,” Nay said. “This is the first time that someone had been hit.”

Councilwoman Debra Stark represents the Sunnyslope community, which is composed of about 40,000 people. She hopes the recent pay increase approved for police officers will increase efforts to combat crime with more boots on the ground.

“I’m tired of the gun violence,” Stark said. “The pay raise will attract people to the department… we’ve got to get staffed up.”

Councilwoman Stark said they are organizing a community meeting with police to come up with solutions to combat gun violence.

“The shooting out here is out of control and hopefully [soon] it won’t feel being shot [just by] going through this neighborhood,” said Chad Martinez, an unsheltered resident.

No arrests have been made in either shooting.

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