Updated Wednesday, June 16, with new detail: A second person has died from injuries sustained in Friday night’s mass shooting, Savannah Mayor Van Johnson said Tuesday. The latest victim is a 26-year-old man, according to a Savannah Police Department press release. A 20-year-old man, Arthur Milton, died Friday and the victims range from 33 years to 18 months old.
Minter said the city will offer a cash reward for information that leads to identification of the shooting suspects. The award fund will start at $10,000.
Johnson again pleaded with the public to provide information about the shooting and voiced the same disappointment he did Saturday — that nobody provided the police or community leaders with information after the same area was targeted by gunfire the Tuesday before the shooting.
“It may have been avoided, it may have been prevented, if someone had just simply spoken up the Tuesday before. They did not and it happened again and in doing so, a murderer was allowed to continue to walk these streets,” Johnson said Tuesday during his weekly press conference.
Police arrested two people from a dark red sedan Saturday night, the same kind of car that was seen leaving the scene. Minter said detectives have not found a connection between the two people and the shooting but are still investigating.
From Saturday, June 12, 2021: A mass shooting Friday night left a 20-year-old dead and 7 injured, Savannah Police Chief Roy Minter said Saturday. An 18-month-old toddler and two teens, ages 15 and 16, were among the wounded. Two others suffered life-threatening wounds and are being treated at Memorial Hospital, he said.
The shooting in a residential area at the 200 block of Avery Street, is believed to be connected to a barrage of bullets fired in the same area last Tuesday, Minter said. when residents experienced damage from 10 gunshot rounds, Minter said.
“We could not find any witnesses and no one would provide us with any information regarding that particular incident,” Minter said. “Two days later, we ended up with a mass shooting at the same location.”
A dark, possibly red, sedan was spotted leaving the area after the gunfire on Friday, and Minter said investigators suspect it was a drive-by shooting.
Some of the people wounded Friday were still at the scene when officers arrived shortly after the 9 p.m. shooting, but several others hurt had already made it to Memorial Hospital.
Detectives attempted to interview the victims who arrived by car at the emergency room, but “the hospital seemed pretty chaotic last night,” Minter said. Detectives expect to try again Saturday.
The Current requested general information from Memorial Health about how the hospital handled the chaos and what conditions were like in the emergency room.
Julie Tyre, vice president of communications, responded with an email to The Current that said, “Your request is part of an active investigation. We would suggest you reach out to the Savannah Police Department for information.”
Officials ask for more information
Minter pleaded with members of the community to come forward with any information about the shooting directly or through tip lines, Mayor Van Johnson or other community members. He said it was “disappointing” police were not able to discover information about the Tuesday shooting that could have possibly prevented Friday’s shooting.
The shooting Friday is the latest in a predicted surge of violence this summer. Violent crime tends to increase with warmer weather, according to multiple studies, and U.S. officials worry this summer will be unusually severe.
This is not the city’s first mass shootings. Mass shootings occurred here during the summers of 2019, 2018 and 2017, according to the Gun Violence Archive.
It also is not the first killing to occur here on June 11. Last year, on June 11, 2020, a 17-year-old woman was slain in gunfire on Staley Avenue. On June 11, 2019 two people were killed and two others were hurt in a shooting on Damascus Road.
Johnson said violent crime in Savannah is up 12% from last year, most of which is attributed to non-fatal shootings. He encouraged people to be proactive in providing information they have about violent events.
“We cannot police our way out of this and we do not want to be a police state. We recognize police are our partners, but we have to be partners to the police,” Johnson said. “People have to protect ourselves and that is the purpose of public safety. Public safety is the public’s responsibility.”
Homicides in Savannah ticked up during 2020. There were 31 killings in 2020, seven more than the 24 in 2019, according to SPD figures. In 2015, there were 53 homicides, a high over the past decade.
There have been 14 homicides so far this year, Minter said. This time last year, there were 18 homicides, Johnson said.
Gun violence rises nationwide
The trend of violence is not limited to Savannah. Gun deaths increased in 2020 across the U.S. GVA reported more than 43,000 deaths due to guns in 2020, the highest number of gun deaths since it began tracking data in 2013.
Experts cite the COVID-19 pandemic and perceptions that police departments have “stepped back from their responsibilities in response to this year’s racial justice protests” as factors, according to TIME. Systemic issues like lack of access to quality education, health care and employment opportunities also play a role.
The shooting in Savannah on Friday was one of five to occur within a 24-hour period nationwide. Other mass shootings were reported in Seattle, Chicago, Dallas and Austin, Texas. All told, 37 were injured and four were killed in the spate of mass shootings, which the GVA defines as a shooting in which four or more people are shot or killed excluding the shooter.
Johnson and Minter urged Savannahians to be proactive in providing information about violence in their communities to decrease the toll of gun violence.
“We’re only as good as the information we receive from our community,” Johnson said. “If we are protecting people that we know are involved in these types of activities, then we become just as guilty as they are, and then we can’t be surprised when something like this happens.”
The Current reporter Laura Corley contributed to this report.